Gray Matter of American Democracy
To be clear, why the 2012 presidential election resulted as it did is most likely in the gray matter between Romney’s “gifts” narrative and Obama’s “the people prefer my solutions” narrative. Finding balance will be the work of political analysts and historians who will make careers out of unveiling the kernels of understanding about America’s first re-election of a black president.
It is plausible to conclude that some of Obama’s 332 Electoral College votes reflect technical determination that the president’s policy choices are best for the nation. Some of Obama’s support was likely tied to perceived gifts as Romney claimed. Some of the Obama vote was a backlash from Bush-era politics as the blame for prevailing conditions today — whether that perspective is accurate, perceived, or the product of team Obama’s use of blaming Bush for current policies shortcomings. The GOP cannot indemnify itself given controversies over Voter ID laws, efforts to shorten the early vote cycle, and other pursuit that, even where genuine, do come with political costs. And quite frankly, it is not inconceivable that some [black] votes emerged out of a deep-seated and vicarious sense of social reparation that followed a history of slavery and jim crow segregation.
Does anyone seriously doubt that 96% of African American voters dedicated time to reading the Affordable Care Act or analyzing The Stimulus Bill? Would any project that a black population, facing an unemployment rate of 14.3% and where 26% of black families are now in poverty overwhelmingly gave support to the incumbent for rational reasons?
Contrary to Romney’s theory, Obama has done very little to address issues in the urban core. His discussions with black leaders, including the Congressional Black Caucus, have been more about his re-election than the confluence of persistent problems facing black America. And the Obama campaign did not plan stops in the community whose overwhelming support made the difference in swing states such as Ohio and Florida.
The gray matter of why people vote as they do reflects the realities of American politics.The vote is given to those who exercise it with myriad motivations. Some rational and informed. Some irrational and uninformed. Such is the case in 2012 as it is inevitably the case in America’s electoral process; particularly when civics, billion dollar campaigns, and social factors overlay sound discourse on topics related to good government. If Obama’s rise is in-part a result of self-interests or irrationality, the same could and would be said had Romney been the victor. Indeed, the same surely can be said of each of our nation’s previous elections. This is both evidence of and cost of democracy.
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