Election Dissection: What Does It Mean for the Rest of US?

 

I am an advertising agency’s nightmare. I pledge loyalty to no television personality or station. Instead, I flip from station to station watching how each is covering the election. You can learn some interesting, albeit essentially useless, information by doing this. As I mentioned before, the talking heads have virtually the same talking points across the stations. There was some variance in how quickly the differently stations called the states, particularly for Obama. NBC and ABC seemed to be in a race of their own – each trying to call a state for Obama first. Some might question the professionalism of Diane Sawyer, who seemed absolutely giddy when she called each state and the election. Fox lagged behind in this regard, reporting Obama wins much later than the other stations. I will leave it for you to decide if this was a function of ideology or simply a news station remembering the downsides of calling elections too quickly.

But, before the writing was truly on the proverbial wall, audiences were treated to a litany of explanations of why Democrats won and Republicans lost. Republicans first. Romney, according to the pundits, lost the election because:

  • He alienated women and Hispanics during the primary and simply did not have enough time to convince these groups that he would be a centrist on women’s issues and immigration. Most of the pundits noted that his support for “self deportation” laws and overturning Roe v. Wade were tantamount to political death – especially given the shifting demographics in the U.S.
  • The public did not get to know Romney. Republicans and PACs spent too much time attacking Obama and not enough time selling Romney. One of my favorite comments of the night: If Republicans had only played the prepared biography rather than having Clint Eastwood speak at the RNC, things would have been different.
  • The Republican Party lacks clear leadership. As a result, the states push forward these “toxic” candidates that do not stay on script and refuse to take one for the team – Aiken and Mourdock were mentioned frequently last night in the regard.

Democrats next. Obama won because:

  • He has a really good ground game. A conservative pundit on ABC’s election coverage last night noted that the Republicans had underestimated his ground game because they really did not think he could do a better job than he did in 2008. “We were wrong,” she concluded. Obama, by most accounts, rewrote the political models last night by capitalizing on changing demographics in the U.S. and getting who he needed registered and to the polls.
  • Obama won over the majority of women. The women’s vote was not just about abortion rights, but also about his position on health care more generally, his support for same-sex marriage, and his rhetorical push for pay equality.
  • Obama turned Romney’s presumed positive into a negative. Rather than seeing Romney as the slick business man with a briefcase full of economic solutions, Obama made sure Americans saw him as an out-of-touch multi-millionaire who had no concept of the average citizen’s struggles.

Undoubtedly, we will be treated to additional explanations for the success and failure of the candidates as well as the standard this-is-not-a-mandate diatribes that harp on the deep divisions in the U.S. and how the President has an uphill battle ahead if he wants to bridge this nasty political gap.

 

But, for most of us, little will change. Things will keep plugging along because, although the President of the U.S. is important, he is not a magician. We won’t see dramatic declines in gas prices (the prices are set in the global market and, no, it doesn’t matter if we drill more in the U.S. because this does not change the demand for oil) and the economy is not going to take a crap or shoot into the stratosphere over the next four-years (it took a long time getting us into this mess and, consequently, it will take longer to get us out of it).

There is something that could change, however. We could use this as an opportunity to take out, dust off, and discuss our social contract. Clearly, there is not a consensus on the relationship between the government and the citizenry. We should engage in a conversation about who we are and who we want to be as a country.  Of course, this is not an easy task. We would have to stop bickering about what our founding fathers intended and quit seeing one another as political labels (Raging Liberal and Bible-banging Conservative). We would have to recognize that the big political game won’t be back on for a couple of years and take advantage of the time we have together – as citizens- before the election pre-game begins anew.

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About Double take Sociology

I am a professor of sociology at Florida State University. I research (and write about) social movements, mass media and politics. My new book is "Abortion Politics, Mass Media, and Social Movements in America" (2015, Cambridge University Press). Be sure to visit my website at www.DeanaRohlinger.com!
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