December 14th, 2008
PURE GOLD: A LOT CAN CHANGE IN 40 YEARS.by Ed Gold
Yes, we did!
We changed the face of America on Nov. 4th, both literally and figuratively. When they play “Hail to the Chief” on Jan. 20th a tall, lanky black man will take center stage for all the world to see.
Ridiculed by the Republicans as a “community organizer,” Barack Obama put together the most expensive, technically advanced, best organized campaign for the Presidency in the nation’s his- tory.
He eradicated the red state myth, capturing the heart of the Confederacy, key pieces of the hard conservative Midwest and chunks of the rugged frontier Far West.
Virginia and North Carolina fell, along with Ohio, Indiana and Iowa, followed by New Mex- ico, Colorado and Nevada. And, of course, he took Florida, despite the robocalls that told Floridians he was Castro’s pal.
Along the way, he doubled John McCain’s electoral votes, helped bring a record 124,398,550 to the polls, (many first time voters) took the pop- ular vote by six percent, and saw his party add at least 24 seats to its majority in the Senate and at least 19 to its House majority.
The attempt by the Republicans to turn a single blue state wound up in the sewer as Obama swept Pennsylvania by ten points.
Republican control was virtually reduced to the Deep South and the Bible Belt.
In fact, the party of Lincoln lost its last Con- gressional seat in New England when the only moderate, Christopher Shays of Connecticut, bit the dust.
The campaign skills in the Obama sweep were demonstrated early on Nov, 5th when an e-mail arrived which began: “Ed—I’m about to head to Grant Park to talk to everyone gathered there, but I wanted to write to you first. We just made his- tory..” He continued: “All this happened because of you. Thank you. Barack.”
At least 3 million similar messages must have been sent to campaign donors. The Chicago orga- nizer didn’t miss a beat.
Put to rest in this historic election was the so- called Bradley Effect—white voters who polled for the black, then voted for the white.
The election also indicated the changing role of minority and younger voters. Blacks and Hispan- ics now account for 22 percent of the nation’s vot- ers. The Democrats increased their Hispanic support by 14 percent compared to 2004, and black support by seven percent. Also, the youth vote came through for Obama. The 18-29 year category accounted for 18 percent of the national vote and Obama topped Kerry’s 2004 results in that age category by 12 percent.
While making substantial gains in the Senate, the Democrats were unable to reach the filibuster- proof 60 total. But they picked up at least six seats, which solidifies their majority. That gives them 55 seats and the two independents, Bernie Sanders and Joe Lieberman, gives them an orga- nizing majority of 57.
The Lieberman issue remains unsettled. Several Democrats are ready to strip him of his committee chair, which could send him into the Republican camp. Had he been needed for a sixtieth vote, the Democrats may have overlooked his support for McCain, but then he spoke at the Republican Convention. However, he may have an ally in Obama who wants to unite the party.
New Democratic senators will come from Vir- ginia, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Colorado, Oregon and North Carolina.
The win by Kay Hagan over Liddy Dole in North Carolina was particularly satisfy- ing. Hagan, a state senator, was given almost no chance at the beginning of the race, but she pushed hard on Dole’s absenteeism as well as her strong Bush ties. Then, in desperation, Dole ran a late campaign ad in which she questioned Hagan’s belief in God! Hagan won by eight points.
Other Senate results were also encouraging. The cousins Mark and Tom Udall won seats in Colorado and New Mexico respectively. The Democrats’ Mark Warner replaced the retiring Re- publican, John Warner, winning the Virginia seat by 30 points. Jeanne Shaheen won a rematch in New Hampshire against incumbent John Sununu, and Jeff Merkeley edged the moderate Gordon Smith in Oregon, Smith victimized by running under the wrong brand.
Actually, three Senate races remain undecided, but the Democrats will have difficulty winning any of them. In Minnesota, incumbent Norm Coleman and Democrat Al Franken were in a vir- tual dead heat, separated by only a few 206 votes. A recount was called for. Coleman held the edge and asked Franken to skip the recount which one TV commentator labeled “chutzpah,” since both candidates are Jewish.
In Alaska, the convicted felon, Sen. Ted Stevens, held a narrow lead over Democratic Mark Begich, which said something about Alaskan ethicial standards. Stevens held a 3000 vote lead with 90,000 ballots still to be counted. Should Stevens win, the Senate could remove him.
In South Carolina, a runoff was required be- cause the Republican incumbent missed a major- ity vote by a fraction, in a three-man contest.
Meanwhile, in the tattered Republican enclave, mixed signs emerged. On the hopeful side was the classy concession speech made by McCain, who recognized the historic import of the election, and the need for cooperation as the new president faces a large pile of messes inherited from the Bush years.
On the other hand, the losers in Phoenix, domi- nated by Yahoos, booed McCain when he men- tioned the President Elect. On hand, too, was the Barracuda, clearly anxious to remain in stage, who asked if she could give her own concession speech and was turned down. But she did tell the media that she couldn’t be blamed for the loss; it was all the fault of the bad economy which, of course, the Republicans had nothing to do with.
Actually, Palin was McCain’s biggest campaign mistake, topping his decision to bring in Rove people to run his campaign. As the race ended, 60 percent of the voters felt Palin wasn’t up to the job, while an overwhelming majority thought Joe Biden was.
Apparently, some of the Palin handlers felt strongly about her incompetence. Hard to believe, but they told Fox News that Palin thought Africa was a country, and wasn’t too sure which coun- tries made up North America. The odds are that she’ll be back.
An early poll of the battered Republicans showed Palin running third in popularity, behind two other losers, Romney and Huckabee.
Despite the exhilaration, the cultural war re- mained front row. In California, Florida and Ari- zona, voters rejected same sex marriage. The decision in California was particularly confusing since the vote over-ruled a state supreme court de- cision approving gay marriages.
The hero of Nov, 4th was, of course, Obama, who preached a new politics over a 20-month campaign, calling on our better angels, talking of a common purpose, invigorating a younger gener- ation, and maintaining a confident calm that in- spired millions.
He also shows he can make tough, pragmatic political decisions. He found a way to raise ex- traordinary campaign funds and decided against taking the government campaign allotment. He also rejected McCain’s invitation to join in a se- ries of town hall meetings, settling for the three TV debates and an untold number of dramatic personal appearances through mostly red state ter- ritory.
On the local scene, Democrats captured the state senate and held the governorship and both legislative bodies for the first time since the New Deal.
Euphoria was followed by some confusion as a breakaway group of four Democrats, three of them Hispanic, took exception to electing a black, Sen. Malcolm Smith, as party leader. They com- plained that blacks already held the Presidency and the governorship, and that Latinos deserved more consideration. After a few days of threaten- ing, three of the renegades said they would make a decision in January.
Mike Bloomberg did not fare well on election day. He had supported four Republicans in Senate races, all of whom lost, including two incumbents that put the Democrats in the majority.
**An election postscript: The euphoria at Grant Park during Obama’s victory speech showed how far we had come. I remember the Grant Park of 1968 when Chicago po- lice battered war protesters in one of our nation’s ugliest election scenes.
What a difference 40 years has made!