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Nov 12 2012

Obama did not win with the ‘best’ votes

I said that it became clear early on Tuesday evening that Barack Obama was going to win the election, from the way that certain states that were thought to be close (like Pennsylvania) were called early for Obama and those that were thought to be possibly trending to Romney were not called.

But the dead give away were the expressions on the people at Fox News and the situation became blindingly clear at around 9:00 pm on Tuesday night when Bill O’Reilly made these incredible remarks.

The sentiments being expressed were astounding, viz. this country is no longer run by white men, who are the ones who represent ‘traditional’ America and that it is a scandal that their votes count the same as the votes of those moochers (Latinos and blacks and women and the young) who vote for Obama because they just want ‘stuff’ and ‘things’ and he will give it to them.

O’Reilly was channeling the feelings of aging rocker Ted Nugent, who said openly what O’Reilly was using coded language for. Nugent decried “pimps whores & welfare brats & their soulless supporters” and asking “What subhuman varmint believes others must pay for their obesity booze cellphones birth control abortions & lives?”

Another ‘respectable’ commentator Charles Krauthammer also goes into fantasyland, to first deny the breadth of the win and then arguing that this result was an aberration and that the Republican party needs to field an even more extreme candidate than Romney was in the next election. Yes, that is just what the party needs to win over the people who rejected it this time around.

But this view that Obama won with second-class votes is not limited to those who live in Fox News fantasyland. It is quite widespread as can be seen in this passage by Jim VandeHei and Mike Allen writing in the popular newsletter Politico:

If President Barack Obama wins, he will be the popular choice of Hispanics, African-Americans, single women and highly educated urban whites. That’s what the polling has consistently shown in the final days of the campaign. It looks more likely than not that he will lose independents, and it’s possible he will get a lower percentage of white voters than George W. Bush got of Hispanic voters in 2000.

A broad mandate this is not. [My italics-MS]

Really? When you list a wide diversity of voters who have voted for a candidate, surely that is the very definition of a ‘broad mandate’? The authors probably thought they were saying something uncontroversial but Josh Marshall deconstructs their remarks to reveal the subtext, that what those reporters are really saying is, “Obama’s winning but not with the best votes. I mean really, if you can’t win with a broad cross-section of white people, can you really be said to represent the country? Really.”

Two days before the election, Kathleen Geier predicted that this would one of the excuses trotted in the wake of Romney’s defeat.

Another popular argument to try to discredit the president: hey, Obama may be “the choice of Hispanics, African-Americans, single women and highly educated urban whites,” but that’s not Amurka, buddy! Everyone knows that Amurka is white people. ‘Specially white people who are dudes. Oh, and of course, rich people! The notion non-whites, the poor, urban dwellers, and unmarried women are second-class citizens whose votes shouldn’t count is straight-up racism and sexism of the most despicable kind. Obama’s detractors will use prettied up phrases — they’ll say he didn’t win over “middle America” or (as per Atrios) “the heartland,” but what they mean is that the votes of those who don’t have white skin or possess a penis, or a piece of paper that legally connects them to a penis-holder, should not count. This argument is of course shameful and beneath contempt. and anyone who makes it should immediately be called on it.

Where does all this come from? As Adele Stan wrote on November 2, the Republican party and Romney campaign have been pushing this kind of coded language demonizing Obama during its entire campaign, in fact since even before the 2008 election, and so we should not be surprised at it emerging in its raw form when the bitterness of defeat lowers people’s guard and strips away the mask of gentility beneath which it has been hidden.

15 comments

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  1. 1
    Zinc Avenger (Sarcasm Tags 3.0 Compliant)

    Perhaps certain people should be made worth 3/5 of a vote?

  2. 2
    Worldtraveller

    Gosh, no one’s ever tried that before, I bet it would work out swell.

    My wife is not a political junkie like I am, and when I started pointing out some of the videos and writings leading up to the election, she was shocked and appalled at all the racist code words she saw.

    I was just appalled, but that’s the normal state of affairs….

  3. 3
    Leo Buzalsky

    Where does all this come from?

    As someone who was raised in the “heartland,” I can tell you white people (in general) do not like the reality that they are losing power and influence. This coded language both incites them and strokes their egos. It keeps them from having to think critically about the world.

  4. 4
    coragyps

    Zinc, that is brilliant. That’s nearly worthy of our True Christian Founding Fathers(TM)!

  5. 5
    Henry Gale

    Another ‘respectable’ commentator Charles Krauthammer also goes into fantasyland, to first deny the breadth of the win and then arguing that this result was an aberration and that the Republican party needs to field an even more extreme candidate than Romney was in the next election.

    I personally hope the Republicans do field a more extreme candidate and as a result the party becomes more disconnected with the majority of Americans.

    If the Republicans do this for one or two election cycles it will probably kill the party.

    If that happens perhaps the hard core conservatives will just fade away into some third party minority and the ‘moderates’ will join the Dems.

    This may allow for a truly progressive party to rise up.

  6. 6
    Scott

    I found O’Reilly’s remarks really insulting. I don’t understand where the whole idea of Obama being the welfar/food stamp president came from (actually, I think I know where it came from, but I’m trying to believe that people really don’t think that way). Because even if it was true, payments like welfare and food stamps are a tiny, tiny portion of the budget, and did anyone really vote for Obama so they could continue to receive public assistance?

    It seems like the entire right survives on talking points and slogans, and not on facts. There are plenty of very valid criticisms of Obama that are fact-based, but they seem to ignore those in favor of, frankly, BS. I think the Daily Show had it right with their term “Bullshit Mountain.”

  7. 7
    Marcus Ranum

    Nugent decried “pimps whores & welfare brats & their soulless supporters” and asking “What subhuman varmint believes others must pay for their obesity booze cellphones birth control abortions & lives?”

    Funny, coming from a draft dodger.

  8. 8
    mnb0

    Obama did win with the best votes, for the simple reason that any single vote for Mittens was a bad one.
    Subh Holi (even I don’t believe in that stuff either) everyone.

  9. 9
    coragyps

    “….but I’m trying to believe that people really don’t think that way.”

    You can give up on your attempts, ’cause they damn sure do think that way. And they say it out loud around here.

  10. 10
    ph041985

    One aspect I think contributed to the overall result, but nobody seems to be discussing or even have picked up on, is that people don’t like to back a loser.

    I wonder if there was a considerable amount of people who saw the polls leading up to the election, and came to the conclusion that Obama was going to win, and changed their vote from Romney or whoever to Obama. For whatever reason, whether it was so they could say they voted for the winner, or maybe just for their own self-assurances, or whatever. I do think there are people out there like that, that would rather vote for who they think is going to win over who they would rather vote for, and maybe they made the difference between an Obama squeaker and an Obama landslide.

    I wonder what kind of statistics there are behind that.

  11. 11
    sailor1031

    Mask of gentility? When has that been the case? All I have seen for the last five years is sheer naked, bigoted hatred of Mr Obama from such people. Mort aux vaches!

  12. 12
    Nick Gotts

    I wonder if there was a considerable amount of people who saw the polls leading up to the election, and came to the conclusion that Obama was going to win, and changed their vote from Romney or whoever to Obama. – ph041985

    Really? That sounds like crap to me, the kind of crap peddled by bitter right-wing commentators. There may well be people who want to be on the winning side, but the whole media message this time was that the contest was “too close to call”.

  13. 13
    ph041985

    Well, I’m not on the side of the right-wing, and I wasn’t suggesting it as a way of somehow invalidating Obama’s win. And I don’t think the whole media message was that the contest was too close to call. Most of the media, not affiliated with Fox News, appropriately reported it as a decisive Obama victory.

    My comment was as a scientist and observer of human behavior.

    And humans can be petty, fickle, and irrational. Not all, and not all the time, but it is part of human nature.

    So I don’t think it’s crap to suggest that people would vote for Obama just because they thought he was going to win. What’s wrong with saying that if it’s probably true? Is it any different than saying there’s some people out there who probably didn’t vote for Obama just because he’s black?

  14. 14
    Mano Singham

    It is suggested that some people like to vote for a winner but all I’ve ever seen suggested is that this may make them more likely to vote if their candidate is going to win and less likely if he/she is going to lose, but even then it affects only a small number of people.

    I have never heard of people actually switching sides in order to back a winner. Not that it cannot happen but it would be rather pathetic behavior.

  15. 15
    ph041985

    Well, I’m not debating how pathetic it is. But if behavior being pathetic was enough reason to dismiss it, why not use that argument to ignore the existence of Fox News?

    I’d like to think with you that it only affects a small number of people, but the actions of Fox News and these other pollsters lead me to think that at least they think otherwise. After all, why else were we subjected to this ridiculous coverage leading up to the election?

    Presuming a news outlet, in addition to reporting news, has a vested interest in their candidate winning the election, couldn’t we hypothesize that they want to report in a way that would most likely result in their desired outcome, the outcome being more votes for their candidate.

    So what approach would be best, assuming that such a news outlet is more intent on reaching their desired outcome than accurately reporting the news?

    Scenario A: Report that the opponent is going to win. The intent is to energize voters who otherwise would sit out on election day because they want their guy to win. (Seen Head of State, anyone? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rhPzAbOFhFc) A secondary intent may be to lull the opponents’ voters into a false sense of security, so they are more likely to stay home on election day.

    Scenario B: Report that the election is neck-and-neck. Again, the intent is to energize voters and increase votes for their candidate. This approach could also theoretically energize the opponents’ voters as well, so this would presumably only work if there was reason to believe that it would result in more candidate votes than opponent votes.

    Scenario C: Report that desired candidate is going to win. Again, if we assume that the news outlet is reporting in a way that would increase the number of votes for their candidate, this means that the presumption is that there are people who, upon hearing that this candidate is going to win, end up more likely to vote for this candidate, or to vote instead of not voting at all, or for a write-in, or something.

    I think it’s fair to say that the American population is varied enough that there are people who fall into each one of the above categories. The question is, into which category would the most number of people fall?

    We all know what approach Fox News took. So the question is, why did they think that was the best approach to take? What was their intent, after all?

    Was it to report the news accurately? Or increase the number of votes for Romney? Because if either was their objective, I’d say their approach was flawed.
    Apparently the other possibility is that they wanted to report the most desirable outcome for their viewers, without actually swaying the election at all. If that’s the case, why go to the extents to which they go?

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