Wednesday, November 07, 2012

election postmortem

Obama: 303 electoral votes
Romney: 203 electoral votes
--as of 1:06AM, November 7, 2012

So! The election is over, and Mr. Obama successfully retains his death-grip on the golden throne of state-- not by a tiny margin, either, but by a rather significant one: 100 electoral votes as of 1:00AM on November 7, 2012! So I was wrong in my modest prediction about how close the race would be-- I had said that the margin would be no larger than 50 electoral votes. Egg on my face. While not exactly a landslide victory for Mr. Obama, it was nevertheless a clear one. Congratulations, Mr. President.

I can't say I'm all that surprised at the results of this election. I think that some folks, especially conservatives, let their optimism and desire to see Obama dethroned get in the way of their judgment. I remained cool, and predicted an Obama win on this blog for months. Not being an Obama fan, I didn't feel joyous about doing this, but my intuition was based on several obvious factors: (1) Mitt Romney was merely the least weak of a very weak field of GOP candidates; (2) in recent history, most incumbents have won reelection; and (3) the GOP has lost whatever lockstep sense of message it used to have in the heady days of Dubya's first term. These three indicators were enough to predict an Obama victory.

We won't be seeing the bust of Winston Churchill back in its place of honor in the Oval Office anytime soon, nor will we be seeing any diminution of government intrusiveness. What really matters is whether the downward trend in the US economy continues throughout the next four years. This might be enough to wake most of the electorate up to the fact that statism is unhealthy. We can only hope. And we can only hope that better candidates than Mitt Romney make an appearance as respectable contenders in 2016.

Conservatives can take heart, though, that they still control the House of Representatives, and can thus function as the loyal opposition. If we think more strategically, it's important to remember that, given how close the popular vote was in Obama's favor, Obama can't be said to have a clear mandate from the people. Electoral votes decide the victory, but the true test of the country's mood is the popular vote. As of 1:35AM, Obama is ahead by only 500,000 votes out of over 105 million total votes cast.*

As with many second-term presidents, Obama will likely have to deal with a scandal. In his case, the scandal will almost surely center on Benghazi, Libya, and the suspiciously unnecessary death of Ambassador Chris Stevens. The sense that Obama's administration has engaged in a systematic coverup abetted by the loyal leftist media is quite strong, at least among the centrist-libertarian Instapundit crowd. While I'm still waiting for more data and analysis, I nevertheless have the feeling that something about the Stevens situation doesn't add up. This incident could prove to be Obama's bugbear during his next four years, eroding faith in his administration.

All in all, I'm relieved the election is over. Not much, if anything, about the status quo has changed; when Inauguration Day, January 20, comes around next year, it'll be business as usual. I'll be watching the economy to see whether Obama's leftist approach to repairing it bears any fruit. I'm betting it won't, and that major economic health indicators will continue to trend downward. "Four years is not enough time to repair the damage" will soon become "eight years is not enough time." At some point, the excuses will begin to sound petulant and ridiculous, if they don't already.

I saw that Malcolm Pollack had quoted HL Mencken on Twitter, and thought that that quote would make for a fitting end to this postmortem blog post:

Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard.

*As of 2:33AM, Obama's lead in the popular vote has widened to a more-impressive 1.2 million votes. This still doesn't constitute a resounding mandate for the man: 1.2 million votes out of 110 million votes cast is barely over one percent. Meanwhile, Alaska has yet to weigh in with its 3 electoral votes, but it seems to be tilting heavily toward Romney. This would give Romney 206 electoral votes. I'll be curious as to the final electoral vote count. We'll know more in the morning.

UPDATE: As of 10:53AM Wednesday morning, Obama's popular lead now stretches to over 2 million votes, with almost 117 million votes tallied. That's a two-percent margin.



  1. What does a "mandate" really mean in U.S. politics? I know people talk about whether a president has a mandate, but what actual effect does it have on the president's ability to govern? I mean, Dubya lost the popular vote in 2000 and that didn't seem to faze him too much.

    I expect the popular vote margin to grow wider as more West Coast votes come in, but I wonder what it will all mean in the end.

  2. I suppose that, in terms of large, long-term effects, a popular mandate creates insulation at the polls: it means that there'll be plenty of supporters when election time comes 'round.

    At the more short-term, grass-roots level, a mandate (or lack thereof) can affect the outcome of midterm elections, and even more immediately, a mandate (or its lack) can affect a given congressman's daily agenda, assuming he starts receiving letters from disgruntled constituents about such-and-such turn of events/shifts in policy. The connection between the grass roots and the president is indirect, but many citizens feel that corresponding with a congressman is a way of expressing sentiment for or against the president's policies.

  3. So when people use the term "mandate," they are really talking about how happy (or unhappy) the populace in general is with the ruling party?

  4. I think so. In its most literal sense, a mandate is an order, command, or edict: "The people have spoken." For this election, it seems that what the people have said isn't particularly clear, as if, in a room with 200 people in it, 101 shouted for Candidate X while 99 shouted for Candidate Y. By extension, popular mandate indicates support for a given candidate, which brings us, notionally, closer to the concept of the people's level of happiness with a candidate/incumbent.

    My take, anyway.



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