Months and years of campaigning, more than$2.2 billion in election spending, over 100 million votes cast… and Americans in their wisdom decided to essentially maintain the status quo. President Obama returns to the White House for a second mandate. The Senate stays blue; the House stays red. But lest anyone was thinking that this whole thing was a giant waste of time, remember that it beats the hell out of the alternative.
I was on a plane for most of the evening, and while I was able to watch the results come in on satellite TV (thanks, WestJet!), I didn’t have internet access so no liveblogging of results. It was like a throwback to the pre-Web 2.0 years when you actually had to rely on traditional media sources for information. Well, unless you’re Barack Obama, author of the Tweet heard around the world.
The big vote
The race was close all night, but the nail-biter didn’t materialize. While both candidates were neck-and-neck in the popular vote for much of the evening, most of the highly contested swing states went one by one to Obama: New Hampshire, Iowa, Wisconsin, Virginia were called one by one for Team Obama. You could see the wind go out of the sails in the Romney camp as each one was declared, but Ohio finally solidified things shortly after 11pm ET. At that point, it was all over but the fat lady, whose singing will be heard in Florida just as soon as all those folks standing in line have a chance to vote.
So what happened to give the Obama team such a wide margin of victory, despite a 7.9% unemployment rate and widespread anger and disillusionment with the status quo?
There was no doubt that Obama had the easier path given the distribution of electoral college votes, so this isn’t a surprise to many. Hurricane Sandy was a horrifying tragedy that was also auspiciously timed for the Obama team, as it highlighted environmental issues, allowed Obama to command instead of campaign, and made Romney look foolish for his past comments on FEMA. And Romney dug his own grave in Ohio with his auto industry bailout comments.
But mostly, I think that Mitt just failed to impress much of anyone. His campaign gaffes, flip-flopping and lack of any clear agenda or policies didn’t quite capture the attention of the moderate or independent voters. And his record as a Massachusetts moderate didn’t exactly fire up the “base” of Christian conservatives. Romney is an utterly unremarkable candidate running for an utterly messed up party, and the question isn’t “how did he lose?” so much as “how did he come so close to victory?”
Other key races
- In Missouri, douchebag-extraordinaire Todd Akin was defeated in his challenge to Senator Claire McCaskill’s seat. Legitimate rape THIS, Akin!
- Likewise in Indiana, Tea Party Senate candidate Richard Mourdock, who infamously declared that rape resulting in pregnancy was “God’s will”, was defeated by Democrat Joe Donnelly. Yeah, you guys see that vote breakdown? 53% of all voters were women.
- In Wisconsin, not only did the Obama team defeat Romney in VP candidate Paul Ryan’s home state, but Tammy Baldwin was elected as the first openly gay member of the US Senate. Way to go, Cheeseheads!
On the issues
Ballot initiatives across the country also added to this progressive trend:
- Abortion wasn’t only a hot topic in senate races. The swing state of Florida, on the verge of being called for Obama, resoundingly voted down a ballot initiative that would have limited abortion rights and prevented public funding for abortions. Like I said, don’t mess with women.
- Same-sex marriage was a hot topic on ballot initiatives, and for the first time in US history, it wasn’t one step forward, two steps back. Maine passed an initiative to overturn its ban on same-sex marriage, and Maryland made it officially legal — the first time in the US that gay marriage has been approved by the voters, as opposed to enacted by the courts or by legislators. Results are still pending in two other states, but Washington State is on the verge of authorizing a referendum to legalize same-sex marriage. Only Minnesota risks taking a step back on the issue, with results of a ballot initiative for a constitutional ban still too close to call.
- Medical marijuana initiatives passed in Colorado, Massachusetts and Washington State. The Bloc Pot would approve.
Arguably, the country is more divided than ever, with a margin of less than 1% currently separating the two sides in the popular vote. Certainly, the US has enormous challenges ahead, most notably the fiscal cliff that threatens to throw all of us, including us Canadians, back into recession. Obama’s second four years are likely to be harder than his first.
But I don’t think that’s the real story tonight. From the senate races to the ballot initiatives, there’s a wind of change in the air. Despite the fact that most voters cited the economy as their #1 issue, it’s notable that Romney, who campaigned on nothing but the economy, couldn’t pull off a victory.
Change is slow and not always steady. There are setbacks and divisions and WTF moments. But I truly believe that more and more Americans are declaring that they want equality, healthcare, rights for women and gay folks and old folks and all folks. They’re calling for meaningful action on the environment and climate change, on workers’ rights and human rights. And that, more than anything, is extremely encouraging.
Good on ya, my American neighbours. Way to go on making sure that sanity prevailed. The world thanks you.