Wednesday, November 07, 2012

My Election Thoughts: On Voting Gaps, Mandates and The Losers

You already know the federal-level results:  Barack Obama won a second term as the president of the United States, the Democrats increased their majority in the Senate some and slightly decreased   the Republican majority in the House.

I'm happy with these results in the same way Maurice Chevalier was happy getting older:  It beats the alternative.  Nah.  I'm really quite pleased!  As pleased as a goddess of gloom can be.

But I'm delirious about Elizabeth Warren becoming the first female US senator from Massachusetts.  She is needed in the Senate as a consumer advocate (the other side has plenty of advocates already).  Besides, never having sent a woman to the US Senate was a stain on the pristine feminazi reputation of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

Wisconsin is also sending the first female senator to Washington, D.C., Tammy Baldwin.  But that "firstness" has not been noted as much as the fact that she is also the first openly gay/lesbian senator in the US Senate.  Other happy news concern marriage equality:  At least Maine and Maryland voted for it.  Though it could be argued that one's human rights should not be based on what others think about them, the outcome is still a sign that prejudices against gays and lesbians are diminishing.

Mazie Hirono will also be the first female US senator from Hawaii.  

Speaking of women in the US Senate, their number has now risen to one fifth of the total.  We may be approaching the critical mass where being a woman no longer makes one stand out as the representative of that group but just as an individual politician?  I hope that is the case.

On the other hand, sixteen of those twenty female senators are Democrats and only four are Republicans.  Given the roughly equal support of the two parties,  the Republicans should do some soul-searching.  Hmm.

The Voting Gaps

This links to the gender gap which again reared its snaky head.  On some right-wing blogs comments urge that women shouldn't be allowed to vote at all because they vote the wrong way!  All emotional and driven by Obama's good looks.  The Founding Fathers knew that and so rationally refused women the vote.  Besides, they were all ugly as hell.   Well, that last sentence is my addition.

The discussion of gender gap in various places is trivial and ends with the moan that the country is so very divided, not only in terms of men and women but also in terms of blacks and whites and Latinos and Asian-Americans and so on.  The next sentence then argues that the president must now be the great uniter (yes, I know that is hilarious, given the last four years of Republican Opposition To Everything).

Deeper probing would tell us that the gender gap is much smaller than the gaps between blacks and whites or between Anglos and Hispanics, and that millions of women voted Republican and millions of men voted Democrat.  What makes the gender gap so crucial is that it applies to very large numbers of voters, what with everyone being counted as either male or female.  The following table is from polls before the elections but it reflects the differences (click on it to make it bigger):

Deeper probing would also ask why the various voting gaps exist.  There are several reasons for them, and probably the most important ones are economic reasons:  Wealthier people are more likely to vote Republican and white men are the wealthiest people in this country, on average.

But we should also make explicit the fact that the Republican platform is explicitly against women's reproductive rights.  It's not against men's reproductive rights.  The Republicans oppose parental leaves or child care which are still, sadly, mostly women's issues in this country, and the Republicans also oppose any interference with the way corporations treat their workers, whether discriminatory or not.

This means that the Republicans oppose attempts to curb labor market discrimination against blacks and Latinos.  They have also chosen a very anti-immigrant approach in their attempt to appease parts of their base.

In short, the Republican Party offers one platform to white men and a different one to all the rest of us.  It's like a menu in which  some people are offered delicious dishes, others are offered up AS the dishes.  It would be pretty miraculous if that didn't cause large voting gaps.

What's a lot more astonishing is the fact that so many white women do vote for the Republicans.

On Mandates

Remember what George Bush said after he won his second term in 2004?

"I earned capital in the campaign, political capital, and now, I intend to spend it. It is my style," he said.
And there are plenty of voters intending to hold President Bush to his word.
At an impromptu prayer service outside a federal court in Washington, evangelical leader the Reverend Pat Mahoney leaves no doubt that he and other Christians are expecting the president to deliver on such issues as banning gay marriage and abortion.
"We have an expression in America: 'Dance with the person you brought to the dance'," he said.  

A salutary reminder, don't you think?  Because pundits now question whether Obama has any kind of mandate at all:
A divided nation did not hand President Obama a mandate in his re-election victory.
He'll have to earn that -- making the next stretch of his presidency as critical as anything he did to earn a second term.
On the other hand, the Republicans still controlling the House tell us that there's certainly no mandate to raise taxes because they kept the majority:

“The American people want solutions, and tonight they responded by renewing our House Republican majority,” House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, who ran unopposed in his re-election bid, declared Tuesday night. "With this vote, the American people have also made clear that there’s no mandate for raising tax rates. What Americans want are solutions that will ease the burdens on small businesses, bring jobs home and let our economy grow."
“Just as in 2010, our House Republican candidates listened to the American people and rejected the Democrats' tax-and-spend agenda that threatens the American Dream,” added Rep. Pete Sessions, R-Texas, chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee.
It seems to me that the question of "a mandate" depends very much on whether it is applied to Democrats or to Republicans.  Democrats are expected to reach across the aisle, to hold hands.  Republicans are expected to reach across the aisle, to punch.

I'm somewhat kidding there.  But I don't recall any hand-wringing and soul-searching about bipartisanship during the Bush era.  Not that there's anything wrong with some types of bipartisanship, of course.

The Losers 

Ah.  This is the fun part!  How about Messrs. Akin, Mourdock and Walsh?

It's as if Kali, the goddess of destruction, decided to have a look at those guys.  Akin told us that a rape victim cannot get pregnant because her body has a way of shutting that off, Mourdock told us that rape victims shouldn't have access to abortions because god wanted that child to be born if the egg got fertilized, and Walsh  told us that the likelihood of the pregnant woman's death is no excuse for an abortion which might save her life.

To call any of that "cultural" or "social," as if it's less important than jobs, say,  is a real insult against people who can become pregnant.  That group is not the one in which any of those gentlemen might find themselves, which makes their apparent callousness more... callous.

So they got kicked out, which is excellent news.   But honestly, what would it have said about this country if they had NOT been kicked out?  These guys are extremists, willing to let women suffer almost anything for the sake of the zygote or fetus.

Some have argued that corporate donations and the Citizens United Supreme Court decision were also losers in this election.  That may be the case but rejoicing on that count may be premature.  It takes time to set all those donation ducks in a row.  It's unlikely that corporate money would now quietly go away. It will work on the ducks a bit more.

Finally, a loser worth mentioning is the, a site which decided to replace traditional statistical analysis with something new, simply because that "something new" made the polls look better for the Republicans.