Now that it’s been a few days since President Obama won reelection and I’m no longer utterly sleep-deprived, I think it’s time for me to write up a few thoughts.
I’m new to the Democratic game, but I’ve been around politics for most of my life. Back in 1992, I did get-out-to-vote calls for George H. W. Bush and at 12 years old learned what it feels like to campaign for a presidential candidate and to have them lose. I remember thinking it was the end of the world, that Bill Clinton would destroy the country, and I remember everyone flipping out. Most people who threaten to leave the country when their guy loses never actually do, but I knew people who did. It all seems ridiculously silly now, especially given that Clinton governed from the middle, but that’s what it was like. To the people who are flipping out now, who think that Obama’s reelection is the end of the world, it really isn’t, just like Clinton’s election wasn’t. Twenty years on, I’m more than a little embarrassed at what my twelve year old self thought, but then again, I was twelve and just beginning to be fully aware of the nitty gritty of politics, I was supposed to be melodramatic. By the time I was 16 and saw how everything is dominated by money, I was totally cynical about the process, but that’s another story for another day.
This was my first election as a registered Democrat and the reason that the Republican party lost me is, I think, the reason they’ve lost a lot of younger voters. They need to understand that we’re tired of the culture wars.
I grew up in the religious right, the culture wars were my bread and butter for as long as I can remember. I’d rather not talk about my time with Operation Rescue or the local American Family Association chapter, because it’s too hard to separate the bitter from the sweet–I learned how to be an activist from that time and I’m glad of that, but the bigotry and misogyny is something I’d rather forget. Getting back to this election, even as a pro-life person, all of the “legitimate rape” stuff and middle aged white men talking about women’s bodies as if we as women didn’t have a say in the conversation didn’t set well with me at all. Ditto for the talk about contraception that went out of its way to slut-shame women while demonstrating zero awareness of the fact that if you’re really wanting to reduce the number of abortions rather than just control women’s bodies, you’ll support easy access to contraception. That kind of thing may still play with the old-school culture warriors, but that’s a shrinking percentage of the population.
Ditto for the anti-gay stuff. You may still have the older generation, but you’ve lost the younger generation and you’re not going to get them back because they’ve seen that the bill of goods you’ve been selling just isn’t true. You lost me on that issue long before I realized that I wasn’t straight because it simply made no sense to discriminate against a segment of the population for something they can’t change. The issue’s a lot more personal to me now than it was when I was still convincing myself I was straight, but the facts remain the same, you can’t continue to win elections if you stick to promoting discrimination. The demographics that agree with you just aren’t enough. Drop the outdated culture war stuff and then we’ll talk.
While we’re at it, let’s talk about race. The demographics in this country are changing. The country isn’t as white as it used to be and you’re never going to be able to win a nationwide election again if you keep playing to white voters alone and alienating everyone else. The Southern Strategy won you a lot of elections, but even as you keep winning Southern states by increasingly large margins, you’re losing everyone else. When you make non-white people feel like they aren’t part of your vision for America, don’t be surprised when the few token people you trot out at your conventions aren’t enough to pick up their votes. You can’t spend your time dog-whistling about welfare queens and “illegals” and then expect to get more than a few percent of minority voters. You’re also not going to get younger white voters, who grew up in this more diverse America and don’t respond well to the obvious race-baiting.
On another note, count me among the people who were surprised to learn that Romney actually thought he was going to win. I’ve been around politics long enough to know that whatever your internal polling may say, you always put on the face that you’re going to win because it helps turn out voters for the down ticket races. That we found out that the Romney campaign “unskewed” all of their internal polling demonstrates a staggering level of ineptness. If you can’t face reality with your campaign, how are you going to face reality when it’s in the form of an international crisis? The more that leaks out about his campaign, from “unskewed” polls to the fiasco with Orca, his GOTV system that was never even beta-tested, the more relieved I feel that we dodged a bullet.
Finally, on a more personal level, after all of the work that I put in for the campaign, I’m thrilled to say that we did it and that all the hard work paid off. I’m also thrilled that unlike in 2008, where the Obama victory was tempered by the Prop 8 vote in California, this time around in each state where it was put to the vote, voters chose in favor of equality. We’re not there yet, but slowly and surely we’re moving towards a more perfect union.