With President Barack Obama’s resounding re-election victory on November 6, America’s voters continued to choose the future after the historic election of 2008.
Four years ago, when the U.S. chose the nation’s first African-American president, voters said good-bye to the old America; and this year they showed that the Obama coalition was not a flash-in-the-pan, but as New York Times conservative columnist Ross Douthat wrote, “When you do it once, it’s just a victory. When you do it twice, it’s realignment.”
Douthat continued: “In this sense, just as Reagan Republicanism dominated the 1980s, even though the Democrats controlled the House, our own era now clearly belongs to the Obama Democrats.”
The Obama coalition that won so overwhelmingly four years ago—when Obama beat John McCain by ten million votes and won 365 electoral votes to McCain’s 173—in 2012 it beat the Republican challenger, Mitt Romney, almost as handily. The coalition consisted of the young, women, African-Americans, Hispanics, Asians, professionals and white liberals plus white union members in the Rust Belt, where Obama had saved the auto industry in the first year of his presidency.
They represent the country’s new politics. More than 90 percent of the country’s black voters chose Obama; more than 70 percent of the Hispanics and the Asians voted for the president; 55 percent of the women’s vote went to Obama; and although Romney captured 59 percent of the white vote, Obama got enough, 41 percent, to win.
Of the nine battleground states crucial to victory, Obama lost only in North Carolina, and maybe also in Florida, although it was still too close the day after the election.
When Obama gave his victory speech in Chicago early in the morning after the election, the joy and jubilation from endless ethnic differences stood in sharp contrast to the overwhelmingly white crowd in Boston which had supported Mitt Romney, but somberly, almost in shock, listened to their candidate’s concession speech.
That was the old America, and in 2012 old America wasn't strong enough—as it wasn't in 2008—to win a presidential election. A realignment? I don’t know, but clearly the conclusion must be that it is no longer possible in the United States for the Republicans to win a presidential election with only the support of the country’s white voters.
There are simply no longer enough of them for a win: 72 percent of all voters in this year's presidential election were white. That trend will strengthen in the coming years as America becomes less and less white. Republicans need to think about that and change, but if they are able to do so is an entirely different matter.
In the euphoria of Obama’s victory, the politics in Washington is virtually unchanged, and continued political gridlock is probably more likely than unlikely. The new Congress continues to be deeply divided with a Democratic majority in the Senate and a Republican rule in the House of Representatives.
Still, Obama sounded hopeful in his victory speech, saying “I have listened to you. I have learned from you. And you’ve made me a better president.… You voted for action, not politics as usual. You elected us to focus on your jobs, not ours. And in the coming weeks and months, I am looking forward to reaching out and working with leaders of both parties to meet the challenges we can only solve together: reducing our deficit, reforming our tax code, fixing our immigration system, freeing ourselves from foreign oil. We’ve got more work to do.“
We don’t know much about whether the Republicans in Congress will be willing and ready to negotiate for that compromise. Tea Party supporters are still influential in the new House although several of their leading representatives were defeated, and in spite of the fact that two prominent Tea Party Senate candidates, Richard Mourdock and Todd Akin from conservative Indiana and Missouri respectively, both lost badly to their Democratic opponents.
So four more years for Barack Obama await. What will the second term bring for his administration? Time will tell, but there is a sense of great urgency in Washington the day after Election Day.