La joie venait toujours apre’s la peine: post-election thoughts

Some thoughts evoked by the presidential election results:

One heard people on the right comparing Pres. Obama to Jimmy Carter, and this election to 1980. This was never objectively plausible; for example, Carter had lost so much of his own party that he faced a serious primary contest, while Obama ran essentially unopposed, and Obama’s approval ratings hovered just below or at 50%, while Carter’s were often in the 30s. The more appropriate analogy was with 2004: in each case, the incumbent was well-liked by most people but hated and even considered illegitimate by those at the other end of the spectrum. Only about half the populace thought he was doing a good job, but just enough felt that he deserved another shot, and the incumbent won by a little over 2 points. A lot of these same things could be said about Harry Truman in ’48 too, I suppose.
Perhaps Republicans can take heart from the knowledge that Bush’s and Truman’s second terms were pretty disastrous, and left their parties crippled in the following election Cold comfort, though. One hopes that the current incumbent can avoid the second-term jinx, though precedents are not easy to find…maybe T-Rose? Clinton might have had at least a placid second term if he’d kept his cigar in his pants.
Strangely, if you line up the states according to Obama’s margin of victory, the state that put him over the top was not Ohio, not Virginia, but Colorado. He won every state he needed by at least 4.8%, unless I’m missing one—VA (3 points), OH (2 pts.) and FL were gravy. It’s nice to know that the inconceivable amounts of money dropped on battleground states by Super-PACs and other people who are really corporations did not even come close to accomplishing their aim. Maybe next time our corporations could spend that money on something useful, like making better products, or they can get themselves a mani-pedi, I don’t care.
On average, Obama lost a little under 5 points from his 2008 margin, but it’s interesting to look at where he had bigger drop-offs and where he equaled or even bettered his 2008 numbers.
In the plains and the red mountain states, he had done very well for a Democrat in 2008, perhaps appealing to anti-establishment sentiment. These places reverted to form in 2012. He even managed to do worse in Arizona despite the absence of a native son on the Republican ticket…people keep saying that AZ is going to become a purple state because of its very large Latino population, but it seems that as the Latinos grow in number, the white people there just get crazier to compensate.
West Virginia has been on a long trek from solid blue to crimson in national elections, and took another giant step in that direction this year, giving Romney a 27-point victory. Obama isn’t real popular in TN, KY, AR, or even Missouri either, but the margins are biggest in WV because it has the purest concentration of uneducated white people to be found anywhere. One wonders if the Democrats could do better in this region with a less ‘elitist’ candidate, or with a whiter one. One also wonders if it’s worth trying.
Weirdly, Obama did well in places like Mississippi and Louisiana. I mean, he still got his ass kicked, but he did a little better than in 2008. I’m not sure how to explain this except that those who voted for him in ’08 formed a rock-solid foundation of black people and university-town liberals, and the the deep South includes almost none of the independents who gave him a shot last time but changed their minds.
Finally, the Northeast endorsed Obama, if a
2008 margins
Finally, the Northeast loves Obama even more than Appalachia hates him. He increased his 2008 margin in New Jersey (possibly Sandy had something to do with that), and pretty much equaled it in NY (27 points), RI (23), VT (36), and ME (15). He won Massachusetts by 23 points, which is pretty impressive given that his opponent was from there.
People made a fuss about the influence of the growing Latino vote, as well they should, but most of the battleground states do not have large Hispanic populations, If we started having popular-vote elections like a civilized country, you would see an absolutely ferocious attempt to mobilize the Latino populations of California, Texas, Arizona, New York, and New Jersey. It would be a welcome break from 24/7 hammering on the auto bailout and the coal industry.

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5 Responses to La joie venait toujours apre’s la peine: post-election thoughts

  1. Emily August says:

    I’d be interested to know your thoughts on the acceptance speech. While I don’t find Obama an overly inspiring public speaker (and I sense I’m in the minority on this among his supporters), I was with him for the most part until about three-fourths of the way through. This was the moment he imagined a future America in which the son of a furniture-maker might become a scientist or even a president. Why not a second-generation furniture-maker, I thought? I found the class implications of the statement off-putting: certainly in an era devoted to a renewed interest in the artisanal crafts, furniture-making seems an equally valuable occupation to define the quintessential American. Fortunately he ended on a resoundingly positive note, gathering together the members of all races, creeds, ages, economic classes, and sexualities in his imagined American utopia — a bold but timely move.

    • Roy says:

      I didn’t see but a minute or so of the speech…such things are not usually very good, everybody’s tired and there’s no real point except to thank the workers. I find BO a very uneven speaker: he can write restaurant-quality prose if he sets his mind to it, and can speak compellingly when his heart is in it, but too often those conditions are not present.
      The thing about the furniture maker seems to me an offense more against taste than ideology. It is an over-used and worn-out sentiment, but I have no objection to a wish for greater social mobility.

    • Roy says:

      How about this: I dream of an America where the son of a hedge-fund manager can find useful and fulfilling work making furniture.

  2. apolena says:

    If I can chime in on this (though maybe I am stating the obvious).. the idea of the US being a “classless” society — i.e., something that originally arose as a sharp self-delineation vis-a-vis England — which is an idea that basically refers to there being no limits on social mobility (not only across generation, but even within — i.e., the “self-made-man,” the “American dream,” etc.) has always been one of the core ideas in the American self-mythology as a nation. So, I’d interpret it as, on the one hand, harking back to that and therefore implying that there is nothing “non-American” or threatening about his ideas/vision because he is basically trying to align reality with how most people see the nation/country already/want it to be. And then also implying that that ideal has been elusive and would remain elusive if, e.g., tax and other policies Romney would have (wanted to) implement(ed). In effect, he was proposing a US version of liberté, égalité, fraternité.

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