November 6, 2012 showed again that the United States is truly an exceptional nation. Every four years, we participate in a process to select our President and determine the direction of the country. Although our elections are not perfect, and while many have recently sought to limit the franchise and make voting more difficult, we still find a way to engage millions of people in a democratic process designed to determine which ideas win out. At the end of the process, thoughtful leaders always make some effort to pull the country together and make a peaceful transition to the next four years of leadership. Mitt Romney’s comments on the morning of November 7, 2012 show again how our system works best. Gracious in defeat, he embraced the best tradition of this country in congratulating the President and wishing him well.
Beyond the renewal of our democratic system, what can we learn from this election? I offer the following winners and losers:
In addition to the importance of Tim Kaine’s victory and President Obama’s win, the election again shows that the demographics of the Commonwealth are changing rapidly, with the result that Virginia is now a reliably purple state and likely to continue to be a swing state in the presidential elections for years to come. While we decry all of the TV ads, our importance as a state means more exposure for us and much more emphasis on our politics and our leaders. And much more influence in the federal arena.
The key to the Obama victory was mobilizing a very diverse political coalition. African-Americans, a group which cast over 90 percent of its vote for the President, were key – but so too were Latinos, who increased their vote 10 percent nationally, and increased their support for the President from 67 percent to 71 percent of their votes cast. In Virginia, Asian-Americans cast 64 percent of their vote for the President.
Obama’s performance with women increased from 2008, largely because of policies embraced by the Republicans and insensitive statements from their candidates. There is little doubt that Tim Kaine benefited from the ultrasound legislation and social overreach of the Republicans in the Virginia General Assembly. And we all know what happened to the Republican candidates, Akin in Missouri and Mourdock in Indiana, both of whom angered their electorates with their outrageous comments about rape and lost as a result.
Data-driven politics is stronger than ever. Many of the most conservative Republicans tried to deny the science of polling just like they have denied the science of climate change. This election proved them wrong on the polls; not only were they not skewed to favor Democrats, but many were remarkably predictive of the final results. New York Times poll analyst Nate Silver, who felt the ire of conservative Republicans, was so good that he predicted the presidential winner in all 50 states. Science won big on November 6, 2012.
Secret Super PAC money lost
Virginians are more sophisticated in rejecting the misleading and negative ads fueled by out-of-state secret super PAC money. The Kaine race saw more of this money spent to tear down our former Governor, and saw it earlier than ever before. But Karl Rove and the Koch brothers failed, and we now have two Democratic Senators in Virginia.
With the election over, I turn my attention to the legislative session beginning in January. I am now assembling my legislative package, which will likely include another effort to enact nonpartisan redistricting, a bill to reduce financial exploitation of the elderly, and measures to improve governance at the University of Virginia. As always, I appreciate your input and need your help; it is an honor to represent you in the Virginia General Assembly.
Please feel free to contact me at 434-220-1660 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.