Brian Birdnow

The Democrats and their allies in the mainstream media are now galloping along in full-throated triumphalist mode, which, of course, is their right given the results of the November 6th elections. Despite the efforts of some GOP operatives to accentuate the positives of this election, such as the victories of Republican gubernatorial candidates in various states, it certainly wasn’t a win for the Grand Old Party. Last week many mainstream media scribes took their turns at “interpreting’ the meaning of the election, most of them barely concealing their glee.

Eugene Robinson, the newest Washington Post columnist addressed this question in his weekly Op-Ed piece following the election. Robinson confidently predicted that November 6th was simply the coming out party for the new America, now a “…multihued and multicultural…” nation. He ascribes the Democratic victory to the fact that the old America is gone, and has been replaced by one that is no longer white, no longer male, and no longer middle aged. It is interesting that Robinson and other liberals have labeled the likes of Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and Bill O’Reilly “racists” for saying the same thing recently! In any event, Robinson looks at some choice numbers and claims that a huge minority turnout for Obama won the election. He points out the fact that 93% of black voters chose Obama, but he steered clear of the minefield, by declining to discuss racial solidarity as a possible catalyst for such numbers. Robinson then went on to point out that Obama won 71% of the Latino vote and 73% of the Asian-American vote.

He speculated that black Americans are offended by the Republican Party’s “…open disrespect…” for President Obama, although he forgets the Bush Derangement Syndrome of his own Party members one Presidential term ago. Robinson declares that the GOP has “…no compassion for undocumented (read: illegal) immigrants, and that this angered Hispanics. Actually, many naturalized citizens of Hispanic origin are openly critical of illegal immigration, but no matter. Finally, Robinson states that Asian-American voters found the Republicans supposed China-bashing to be insulting, although this would presuppose the preposterous notion that China is the motherland of all Asian-Americans.

Robinson’s characterization of voting and voters betrays a weakness in all political analysis and journalism. This is the tendency, even the necessity of oversimplification and squaring the circle. He assumes, as a matter of course, that all Latinos, African-Americans, and Asian-Americans think, act, and by extension vote in exactly the same manner. This is a classic example of racial stereotyping, or “profiling” if one prefers. It is dismissive and dehumanizing and would be denounced as patently racist if said by anyone other than a Washington Post columnist.

Still, one should not reject the “changing America” thesis out of hand. Kevin Phillips, the noted social scientist, first postulated this argument in the pages of National Review in the autumn of 1996, not coincidentally another year of GOP futility at the ballot box in a general election. Phillips made the point that most of the long-term demographic trends including immigration, birth rates, education levels, family size, upward mobility etc. favored the traditional Democratic Party constituencies, and that this heralded an era of Democratic electoral dominance. The two major Parties have split the four general elections since that date, but the GOP eked out wins in 2000 and 2004, while the Democrats cleaned up the last two times. Time will tell whether the Phillips thesis holds water. We have seen some of the cherished old chestnuts of the political scientists, such as people voting their pocketbooks, fall by the wayside in the last couple of years.

In the meantime, we may yet construct a narrative for the GOP defeat on November 6, 2012. The Republican Party lost because they fielded a mediocre candidate. Mitt Romney was a fine man, a well-bred business executive, and a solid family oriented fellow who might have made a fairly good President. Mr. Romney proved, however, to be a weak candidate. He refused to go on the offensive and attack President Obama’s vulnerabilities. Romney did not connect Obama to the worst economy and weakest recovery since the Great Depression. He declined, after a hammering by the mainstream media, to press for answers on Benghazi and other Obama foreign policy failures. Finally, Romney made no mention of the frequent Obama abuses of executive power, starting with the so-called policy “czars”, the BATF “Fast & Furious” scandals, the illegal recess appointments when congress was not in recess, the refusal to enforce certain federal laws, and the repeated stonewalling of the Obama Justice Department and his Attorney General when questioned by the Congress, as to whether the laws were being faithfully executed. Mr. Romney is a gentleman who had little stomach for the rough-and-tumble of presidential politics. He could not become the brawler that he had never been, and he lost the election as a result. In the hands of a stronger and better seasoned candidate the Republican message would have sold well, as it has in the past, most recently in 2010.

The majority of American citizens voted for four more years of Obama, rejected the GOP ticket, and gave great comfort to a mainstream media who were showing signs of a nervous breakdown in October. Still, Eugene Robinson and others now celebrating would do well to note that one election does not herald a sea change in American politics. If they do not agree, they need only look as far back as November of 2010 for a confirmation.


Brian Birdnow

Brian E. Birdnow is a historian and teaches at a university in the St. Louis area.