In Part 1 of this series, I wrote that Republicans who were incensed that President Obama had nothing to say to them in his inaugural address should be far more worried the possibility that the president realizes he doesn’t need to spend time and energy reaching out to Republicans. After all, not only was Obama re-elected in spite Republicans’ “top priority” — literally adopted on day one of Obama’s first term — to make him a “one-term president;” he pulled off some major accomplishments, in the face of unprecedented GOP opposition.
The irony of Republicans complaining that the president didn’t reach out to them in his inaugural address is that few Republicans bothered to be there to hear the speech. Other than the few in leadership, who were present if only for appearances’ stake, most Republicans got the hell of out Dodge. About 100 or so, including some Romney campaign staffers, left Washington for Las Vegas, where they comisserated in hotels owned by billionaire Romney backers Steve Wynn and Sheldon Adelson.
Romney himself remained in La Jolla, California, with his family. He told NBC News it was “doubtful” he’d even watch the ceremony. Romney also missed the one ceremony that was held in his honor on inauguration day, on the second floor of the First State Bank in Norton, Kansas, where his portrait was hung in the “They Also Ran” Gallery.
After losing the 2012 presidential election, Inauguration Day likely provided little joy for former GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney. While an aide to the former Massachusetts governor told NBC News that he was with family in La Jolla, Calif. — where it was “doubtful” that he would watch the ceremony — Romney is set to get his own celebration on Tuesday, just a day after President Barack Obama was publicly sworn into his second term.
On the second floor of the First State Bank in Norton, Kan., attendees are set to commemorate the enshrining of Romney into the “They Also Ran Gallery.” For 48 years, organizers have gathered there to raise the portrait and biography of the latest presidential election loser.
(Apparently, Romney made it to Washington a few days after the inauguration, to attend a reception in his honor and hosted by two of his top fundraisers, at Washington’s J.W. Marriot hotel.)
Four years after they decided that making Obama a one-term president would be their number one priority, Republicans are teetering on the verge of becoming an “also-ran” party — a point President Obama may have been signifying in his speech.
First, Obama racked up quite a list of accomplishments during his first term, in spite of the Republican obstructionism. Here’s just the top ten, from an April 2012 Washington Monthly article:
- Passed Health Care Reform
- Passed the Stimulus
- Passed Wall Street Reform
- Ended the War in Iraq
- Began the Drawdown of War in Afghanistan
- Eliminated Osama bin Laden
- Turned Around U.S. Auto Industry
- Recapitalized Banks
- Repealed “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”
- Toppled Moammar Gadaffi
The top five alone would be impressive for any president, but Obama accomplished that and more; not just without Republican support but in spite of Republican opposition. Now, some of these accomplishments weren’t as big as they could have been, and didn’t go as far as they should have gone. (Ask just about any progressive, and they can tell you.) That’s mostly due to Obama’s conciliatory approach to negotiating with an uncompromising GOP. The point is that Republican obstructionism only succeeded in weakening much of the above. The GOP utterly failed to stop any of the above.
Then, there is the obvious. After four years of total obstructionist opposition, Obama still handily won re-election with a majority of the popular vote, and 332 electoral votes thanks to winning all but one of the battleground states. (In a stroke of poetic justice, Romney’s share of the popular vote was 47 percent.)
Then there’s how Obama won his re-election bid. To add insult to injury, Obama won with a socially and economically progressive campaign. His stance on raising taxes on the wealthy, and investing in American resonated with more Americans than the Republicans’ insistence on keeping taxes low on the wealthiest Americans, and cutting safety-net programs instead.
On issues like marriage equality and abortion, Obama’s message appealed to more voters than the Republican message on those issues. In fact, 2012 may mark the first election in decades in which the social issues were an asset to Democrats and a liability to Democrats. Meanwhile, Republicans alienated women voters by positioning themselves against contraception, and running a slate of Senate candidates who couldn’t stop talking about rape and abortion in the worst possible way.
Obama won re-election with a diverse coalition of the same voters that Republicans spent the last four years degrading, denigrating, disenfranchising.
The thing is, Republicans, it looks like you haven’t learned anything from the 2012 election. You’re still asking yourselves the wrong question. You’re asking “Why don’t more Blacks/Latinos/gays/young people/women vote fur us?”(OK, maybe you’re not asking that so much about gays. But you should, and I’ll explain why in a bit.) Instead you should be asking “Why have we failed apply our values and principles to address their concerns?”
Let’s break this down, based on exit surveys.
- Obama won the Latino vote by a 3 to1 margin, with 73% of the Latino vote. That’s up from 67% in 2008. On the other hand, you guys lost 17% of the Latino vote, compared to 2004.
- Obama won 70% of the Asian American vote. Twenty years ago, Asian Americans voted Republican 2 to 1.
- Obama won 93% of the African American vote, doing at least as well, if not better, with African American voters than he did in 2008. Despite attempts at voter suppression and long lines at polling places, African American voters turned out in big numbers, and played a big part in Obama’s reelection.
- Forty percent of white voters backed Obama, while Romney only gained 3% of the white vote over what McCain got in 2004. Even though 88% of Romney voters were white, a lot of white voters didn’t want him in the White House.
- Obama won 67% of the women’s vote, compared to 55% in 2008. It wasn’t just single women either. Women who are”married, with children” backed Obama 56% to 43%.
- Obama won 77% of the gay vote. While they only make up about 5% of the electorate, gay voters were crucial to Obama’s victory — and a growing number of voters identify themselves as gay.
- Obama won 60 percent of the youth vote, which was crucial to his victories in a number of swing states.
Republicans’ problem with the inauguration was that Obama wasn’t talking to them. Republicans are either failing or refusing to face of to an even bigger problem: a new political reality in which the president doesn’t need them or their support to get things done.