As the recent U.S. Presidential Election unfolded, I was in contact with my sister-in-law, Deborah, an American citizen living in Ottawa, seeking her views by e-mail about what was transpiring in the country of her birth. It was a logical thing to do, as she is a regular visitor to the U.S., has plenty of family and friends there and retains a residence south of the border, which allows her to vote in American elections.
Her first message was simply: “Go Obama!” It was a clear and concise indication that she was not a Mitt Romney supporter. Until then, I had been completely unaware of her political views.
Deborah, who moved to Canada about 18 months ago after marrying my brother, Ron, wrote that she was firmly in the President Barack Obama camp. What is surprising about her political leaning — she’s a self-proclaimed “knee-jerk liberal” — is that she worked for a Wall Street-friendly Republican law firm prior to coming to Canada. She has a law degree from the University of Missouri- Kansas City, and an undergraduate degree in sociology from the University of Kansas.
“Any American who believes that the Republicans support the ‘Common Man’ is delusional,” she asserted in the first of a succession of e-mails about the election.
She believes that Romney abandoned any pretext of being a moderate by trying to appeal to the Tea Party and the more conservative wing of the Republican Party.
“I don’t know any Tea Party members (I don’t even know many Republicans, for that matter), but my reaction is, ‘Who cares what they think?’”
In the end, more voters in key states agreed with Deborah, which led to Obama’s victory.
“Romney is a wealthy man who doesn’t pay the same taxes that we pay,” wrote Deborah in another e-mail. “He changed his views on key issues to attract far right voters.”
Of course, she’s right, as the Republican presidential hopeful limited his ability to be elected by appealing, for the most part, to a bunch of angry white elderly men, forgetting that it was essential to appeal to a wide range of groups, such as Hispanics, blacks, Asians, young voters and women, in order to tip the scale his way. The Republican strategists backing Romney failed to realize that the demographics of the U.S. is changing. But Obama noted the change and, as a result, these groups voted heavily in his favour.
In fact, 71 per cent of Hispanics, who made up 10 per cent of the Americans voting, marked their ballots for Obama. There are 53-million Hispanics in the U.S. — 17 per cent of the nation’s people — and they are a continually growing segment of the population. As expected, 93 per cent of African-American voters and nearly three-quarters of Asian-Americans voted for Obama. Younger voters between 18 and 29 years of age were a solid 60 per cent for Obama. Meanwhile, it was a tighter race for the female vote, but Obama still came out ahead with a 55-44 per cent split in the vote.
“Our party needs to realize it’s too old and too white and too male and it needs to figure out how to catch up with the demographics of the country before it’s too late,” commented Al Cardenas, the head of the American Conservative Union and long-time GOP leader. “Our party needs a lot of work if we expect to be competitive in the near future.”
Senator Marco Rubio, a Republican in Florida, which has a significant Spanish-speaking population, seems to have received the message from voters that his party’s policies, or lack thereof, don’t resonate with their own.
“The Conservative movement should have particular appeal to people in minority and immigrant communities who are trying to make it, and Republicans need to work harder than ever to communicate our beliefs to them.”
It appears that Republican strategists have chosen a path toward electoral oblivion, rather than a return to the days when there was a balance between moderates and right-wingers in the party. Even the so-called right-wingers of a bygone era expressed moderate views on certain social issues, concentrating their more fervent beliefs on fiscal matters.
“It doesn’t matter if you’re black or white, or Hispanic or Asian,” said Obama during his victory speech, “or Native American, or young or old or rich or poor, able disabled, gay or straight. You can make it here in America if you’re willing to try.”
Obama got it — the U.S. has changed.
Still, there is the matter of Congress and the Republicans controlling the House of Representatives and the Democrats controlling the Senate. The recent election didn’t change the composition of Congress, which should be of particular concern for Obama and America’s return to fiscal stability. After all, the country is still reeling from the effects of the recession and has accumulated a massive deficit and burgeoning debt.
“I think that certain Republicans realize that we need to move the country forward and will assist,” wrote Deborah.
The first major challenge facing Obama is to come up with a new fiscal plan to prevent $650-billion in automatic across-the-board spending cuts and tax hikes slated for January 1. Obama said the economy cannot afford a tax increase on all Americans and is calling on congressional Republicans to support an extension of existing tax rates for households earning $250,000 or less. In order to build concensus, he is prepared to agree to cut the deficit, but the wealthy must “pay a little more.” Following the election, Obama insisted that he had been given a mandate to increase taxes to the rich as he promised during his campaign. With such a mandate, Obama said, it is time to get the majority in Congress to reflect the will of the American people.
Most economists agree that these measures will thrust the U.S. economy into a double-dip recession, as it will take 5.1 per cent out of the nation’s GDP in one year. Some have likened it to economic “hara-kari.”
Any cuts that do occur under the “fiscal cliff,” as it is termed, would have to include Medicare and social programs that many Republicans hope will be gutted.
If the Republicans resolve to thwart Obama, it will be impossible to put forth a “concensus” bipartisan budget.
“Of course,” wrote Deborah, “since a president is limited to two terms, Obama is technically a ‘lame duck,’ but a lot can happen in four years that can impact the country and politics in that time — remember 2008?
“Also without the need to run for re-election, many presidents have taken the gloves off during their second term. They moderate their views in order to have some power in their political party afterward — (former President Bill) Clinton is a good example.”
Why did she vote for Obama? “He’s a very smart guy, and he reacts intellectually rather than emotionally, which is a very good thing for a president,” replied Deborah.