In this just-completed election cycle, one thing should be clear to everyone: the GOP got thumped. Their candidate failed to upend Obama. Their slate failed to retake the Senate, and in fact lost seats. The Boehner team in the House retained control, but saw the chamber’s approval ranking plummet to historically-low levels while losing, as of this writing, at least six seats. Tea-party backed candidates who promised to usher in a revolution in 2010 faced the stiffest opposition in both House and Senate races, and it was the rejection of many such candidates that prompted the unlikely spectacle of Democratsretaining seats in red states.
Meanwhile, in this state, the biggest number haunting the California Republican Party is not the 1 percent that have benefited the most under the Bush tax cuts, or the 47 percent figure that Gov. Romney described to a group of millionaire donors. No, thenumber that should concern them, more than any other, is 29.4 percent: the historically-low percentage of registeredCalifornia voters who now identify as Republicans. As I write this, the state GOP is in danger of being so much in the minority that Democrats in Sacramento will be able to ignore them on most measures.
Why did the GOP fail so miserably, especially in the Golden State? It certainly wasn’t because they didn’t have their advantages. The President sought reelection in an economic climate that historically dooms incumbents. The Democrats had far more seats to defend in the Senate than the GOP, many in red states. And, just two years ago, the highest court in the land had struck down campaign finance law that had placed limits on the amount of money that could be spent by corporations in political campaigns. A bad economy, far less seats to defend and unlimited cash had Republicans throughout this country salivating at the prospect of capturing the White House and both houses of Congress.
Despite all that, the GOP experienced colossal reversals, especially in California, where the party’s positions are increasingly unappealing to the majority of registered voters. The views articulated in the GOP state and national platforms, in turn, reflect a party whose base is older, less diverse and (surprisingly) less able to respond to changes in the political environment. While the Romney campaign and other Republicans attempted to frame this election as a referendum on the economy, time and again GOP candidates at all levels (and especially Tea Party types) were unable to stay “on message”.
When they went “off message”, GOP candidates invariably either made statements that hurt them with independents, or which solidified Democratic opposition, or both. On foreign policy, on immigration, on abortion, on marriage equality, over and over again Republicans were forced to own their previous words and deeds in ways that turned off independents. And, in various schemes at the state level intended to suppress the size of the electorate, GOPlawmakers cemented the resolve of minority voters to do whatever it would taketo turn out and vote against the party that would attempt to make it moredifficult for them to cast a ballot.
That is why, in an election night betting pool, I chose 332 electoral votes. I had seen for myself the impressive determination of many African-American and Hispanic voters waiting five, six, even eight hours to cast ballots during early voting that had been rather cynically curtailed by Florida Governor Rick Scott. Unlike other places where either the Justice Department (Texas) or local courts (Pennsylvania) got involved, the people of Florida had largely been unable to stop the GOP-controlled Florida state houses from reducing the number of days of early voting, and they certainly hadn’t been able to convince the state to make extra machines and manpower available in densely-populated, Democrat-leaning urban areas.
The fact of voter suppression attempts itself had been well-reported by some media, but how registered voters were taking the whole affair was not. It was my sense that the media was understating the degree to which such tactics (or what is almost as bad, the threat of such tactics) would affect the psyches of the potentially-disenfranchised. Throughout the country, but especially in Florida, where there was little relief from these ploys, I felt that groups of people were talking in their churches, their barber shops and their neighborhood watering holes about what people in other parts of the state were attempting to do to them. It was my sense that, just beneath the surface, there was a growing anger that would boil over on Nov. 6th, like soldiers from an exposed nest of fire ants. My sense of this grew palpable on Sunday night before the election, and by Monday morning I became convinced that this anger would show up at the voting booth in ways that the polls couldn’t quite anticipate.
So, with great confidence on Tuesday evening (around 5:30 in California) I raised the eyebrows of many by boldly predicting 332 votes, based on the assumption that the President would not only take those swing stakes placed in his column by Nate Silver’s “538” model, but that he would take Virginia and Florida. In a word, I thought there were lots of votes from people who didn’t really love the President’s performance, but who were determined to vote, to stand in line however long it took, to defy the attempts of any “monitors” to intimidate them, to spite the forces who would attempt to take away “Big Mama’s vote”.
And, if it wasn’t for chronically-strapped Miami-Dade Countyin Florida giving up and going home after midnight on Tuesday, I would’ve seen my bold prediction come true then and there. As it was, Florida was still officially “too close to call” at the time both Colorado and Ohio broke, “too close to call” at the time Karl Rove had histiff with FOX News analysts, “too close to call” when Governor Romney conceded and still (insert eye roll here) “too close to call” for days after the election.
What a joke! I hope the people of Florida look at the stinking turd of governance called Rick Scott* and send him packing when he is up for reelection, because he accomplished a double-whammy: he snubbed the basic human dignity of many citizens by making it harder from them to vote, and he (yet again) reminded the rest of the nation that the government in Florida still conducts elections like a third-world country.
Thankfully, this time the citizens of Florida reminded this nation that the right to vote is a sacred obligation, a defense of the bonds that unite all of us. The Romney camp has already conceded this point, but regardless of when the official pronouncement comes, make no mistake: the Obama team won in Florida. The President garnered 332 electoral votes, as I predicted. The high number of electoral votes captured is not a fluke, but in line with the margin of error in what the best models predict. Romney and the Republicans collided with reality, and (as it always will) reality prevailed.
(* You might wonder how Rick Scott, being so dreadful---his highest approval ratings so far are in the high 30's----how did he ever win election? Well: it's because he's a Rich $cott, to the tune of $75 million)