Yesterday we drove up to New Hampshire for the fifth time to campaign in the little town of Dover. We banged on a lot of doors, asking, simply, Have you voted? Do you know where your polling place is? Do you need a ride to the polls? Later I got to deliver bottles of water to the very last people to vote in Dover and to some very tired-looking poll workers. Then off to the Blue Latitude bar and grill, where we screamed and hooted as the TV announced that all the people so many of us worked for - Democrat Maggie Hassan (running for Governor of NH), Democrat Elizabeth Warren (Senate in MA), Democrat Tammy Baldwin (Senate in WI) and finally, Barack Obama... all won. We had all worked so hard, driven so many miles, talked to some many people, our knucles were raw from knocking on doors ... and we won. We won. Yes we did! Four more years!
That said, now we look to the future. Troubled waters lie ahead. Second terms are usually fiascos. Think: Monica Lewinsky (Clinton). Iran-Contra (Reagan). Watergate (Nixon). And/or they are marked by terrible economic crises (think: Bush II). I don't think Obama will fall into these traps, though. I can't imagine a sex-scandal like Monica with Obama. The Republicans tried to make Fast and Furious a scandal, and that didn't take. Nore did Benghazi. What we saw with Obama and Sandy was competence. (And thus, last night's election was, above all else, the triumph of competence over complaining, of truth over lies, of reality over fantasy, of consistency over flip-floppery.)
As far as economic recessions go, they tend to hit in cycles around 8 or 9 years long. Thus, before the recession hit in 2008, there was the 1999 dot com collapse, and before that, there was recession at the end of Bush I (around 1991), and before that, there was the recession during the beginning of Reagan (around 1982). Thus, if the recovery keeps going at its present clip, the next recession shouldn't hit until, say, 2017 or 2018. (I push the 8- or 9- years out a little further because it's taken a while to recover from this, the worst recession since the depression.) Thus, we hope that the economy will be okay and keep recovering until after the 2016 election (keep your fingers crossed). (It also means that whoever is elected in 2016 will immediately have to deal with a new recession - but the economy should be full-flower by 2020 when whoever is elected i 2016 runs for re-election.)
Speaking of which...
A lot of people are saying that the Republican party is doomed. But remember, they said that in 2008, and then the Republicans roared back in 2010 and took back the House. They ain't dead.
What happened in 2010 is that the Democrats stayed home. It was remarkably low turnout. And then, because they won in 2010, the Republicans controlled so many governors' houses and state assemblies that they were able to jerry-mander House districts to keep their seats. Thus, the Reps' wins in 2010 were locked in for 2012, which is what we saw last night when they kept the House of Representatives.
But we've been hearing for a long time that the demographics are against the Republicans. America is less and less white. Only 73% of the electorate last night was white - a record low, and Dems overwhelmingly won everyone who wasn't white and male. We won women, we won blacks and Hispanics.
Indeed, there is a coming civil war in the Republican party. Now, twice in a row, they've nominated moderates and they've lost (Romney 2012, McCain 2008). But remember how they used to win with conservatives? Reagan 1980! Reagan 1984! Bush 2000 and again in 2004! (And, arguably, his dad in 1988 was a conservative.) The whole reason for nominating Romney in the first place was that a moderate was supposed to be able to convince the populace to dump Obama. The problem, of course, was they got the wrong moderate - someone who ran the most cynical, lie-filled, rudder-less and, frankly, incompetent Presidential campaign I've seen in my life. Yes, Bush 2004 was cynical and lie-filled (e.g., Swift-boating), but not incompetent. That campaign was like a machine, and Bush faithfully parroted the (purposefully consistent) attack lines Karl Rove and his minions gave him. There was a consistency and efficiency to the Republican 2004 campaign that 2008 and 2012 lacked.
So... 2016. The Republicans have a demographic problem. If they continue to appeal only to white males, who make a smaller and smaller chunk of the electorate, they will lose. Attempts to keep everyone else from voting this year failed (thank goodness) and there's no evidence voter suppression will be any more successful in 2016.
So what do they do? I'd argue that the Republicans can nominate a conservative (which Laura Ingraham last night was insisting that they do), and they could win. How? The lessons of Todd "rape baby" Akin and Richard "rape baby" Mourdock is what John Stewart cleverly described as: "The first rule of fetus club is that you don't talk about fetus club." A pro-life candidate can get elected President (remember Bush 2004?). But the thing is... he can't talk about it non-stop (e.g., Santorum destroying momentum in the primaries every time he got it by talking not about economic issued but about abortion and contraceptives every time he could). Americans skew pro-choice, but not insurmountably so. What Americans oppose by huge numbers is: "no abortions, no exceptions." If Akin and Mourdock had kep their mouths closed, they would have won last night. As did many many "no exceptions" Republicans who didn't make it into a campaign issue.
Thus, the Republicans' best chance of getting a social conservative into the White House is to have a social conservative who doesn't talk about abortion. At all. So... if the Republicans have learned their lesson, there will be no litmus test in the 2016 primaries, no questions about "exceptions". No questions about a Constitutional amendment for life. No questions about gay marriage (which is getting more and more acceptable across the country). They must simply field candidates whose positions were well-known among the electorate... but not give any sound-bite-friendly video clips to the Dems. And no need for an Etch-a-Sketch. Americans are willing to vote for someone who's pro-life but they aren't willing to vote for a flip-flopper or someone sucessfully portrayed as one (Kerry 2004, Romney 2012).
Instead, Republicans should talk about fiscal issues. Non-stop. Nobody thinks that a huge federal debt is good. Gee, most people don't like taxes (a constitutional amendment to forever ban a state income tax flew through last night in NH, and a tiny tiny income tax hike (I think a quarter of a penny) to balance the budget so they wouldn't have to close state universities barely sweaked by in one of the bluest states, California). And people think American should be strong. Talk about that, talk about that, but don't talk about fetus club. Just let your base assume (correctly) that you're pro-life.
And as far as demographics... How about picking someone other than a white male to be the Presidential nominee? A lot of people are saying that Ryan is the Republicans' new standard-bearer. Others say Marco Rubio - that's a good choice, seeing that he's Hispanic. But, if I were a Republican, who would be my first choice? The dark house of...
Susana Martinez, governor of New Mexico. I was terrified that they were going to pick her as VP. I thought McCain actually made a bold choice of picking Sarah Palin in 2008. He knew everything was stacked against him, esp. Bush fatigue. Some thought of it as desperate or not-thought-through, and perhaps Palin wasn't vetted as thoroughly as she could have been (why didn't any McCain people do the simple task of flying up to Alaska and talking to locals and flipping through local newspaper articles (which are not online) to find out a little bit about her first?). But it was a bold choice.
And so would Susana Martinez. Female. Hispanic. Thus, checking off two of the demographics that the Republicans need to do better at. And she has a powerful life story that she told powerfully at the Republican national convention - she was a Democrat until some Republican friends took her and her husband out to lunch one day and afterwards she said to him, Damn, we're Republicans. Conversion stories are powerful - as was Reagan's conversion from Democrat to Republican. Plus, she comes across as smart, likable, cheerful, upbeat, amiable. Not cold and robotic like Romney. Not slippery and evasive like Ryan.
The other thing? It depends on who the Dems nominate. If they nom a woman - like Hillary, or possibly Kirsten Gillibrand (who took over Hillary's NY Senate seat in 2009, and who easily won re-election last night), because of the excitement of the possibility of the first woman president, the Republicans will HAVE to nominate a woman, too.
And as for VP, the Republicans HAVE to pick someone from Florida. Or Ohio. Think: Rob Portman. (Could Romney have won if they'd picked Portman this year? It would have been a lot closer. Or Florida's Rubio?). One guy they CANNOT pick is Rick Scott, governor of Florida - he will neutralize any advantage Rubio or Martinez gives them because Rick Scott personally tried to purge Hispanics from the voting rolls in Florida. Oh no. They can't pick someone from a state they're going to lose (like Chris Christie of NJ, who probably blew his chances at a nom in 2016 by hugging Obama). That's what they did this year - and Romney/Ryan became the first ticket in a long time to lose all their home states (Mass., Wisconsin and Michigan). Hell, even Mondale won his home state of Minnesota (though just barely).
Republicans have to be very careful and calculating if they want to win in 2016 or ever again. Demographics are against them (if you took the percentages Dukaki won of white, blacks, Hispanics, women, etc. and stretched and compressed them to comfort with current demographics, he would have won in 1988). Thus, barring unforeseen incompetence or scandal, there will never be another Republican landslide like we saw in 1972 or 1984 or 1988. Never again. Every Presidential election from now on will be either really close, or a Dem landslide. (Though off-year elections could be repeats of 2010 if Dems stay home.)
There are signs that Republicans are learning their lessons. Most "no exception" Republicans managed to keep their mouths shut this year. Josh Mandell (neophyte crushed by Dem Sherrod Brown in the OH Senate race) changed the subject or just nodded silently when asked about exceptions. And the Republicans paraded every Hispanic and woman they could find on stage during their convention. (Which made me recall how Andrew Cuomo's (Dem governor of NY) dad remarked at the 1984 Dem convention that the Dem are made of a coalition of women and minorities - we don't have to go shopping for them come convention time.)
And thus... I'm really scared that the Republicans will right their boat, come to their senses... and pick someone who might actually win in 2016, like Susana Martinez or Rubio. Oh no.
And for now, I'm relieved. What is Obama's plan for the next four years? No specific plan? Oh well. But you can bet that he will simply continue doing what he's been doing all along - fighting for the rights of women, of minorites, of the poor, of gays. What more could you ask for?