What we got for a $4 billion election

rainey
Barrett Rainey
Second Thoughts

Here, midst the coast-to-coast litter left by our most recent political campaign, we need to look around and consider what $4 billion spent on presidential and congressional battles-for-ballots bought us. And that dollar figure – compiled by the Associated Press – is only good through last week.

If you look just at the presidency and the breakdown of which party won/lost what in the congress, it appears the answer to the money question is “not much.” For me, other factors – truths – make the outcome far different.

Nationally, the Republican Party took a shellacking. Period. Not so much in who won or lost but by how they won or lost. NBC’s Chuck Todd called it “a demographic time bomb that had been ticking and finally blew up in Republican faces.” Nobody has said it better.

Consider this one set of statistics. The white portion of the electorate dropped to 72% and Pres. Obama got only 39% of that. But – he got 93% of black voters (13% of the electorate), 71% of Latinos (10% of the electorate) and 73% of Asians (another 3%). Young voters were 19% of the electorate, up from 18% in 2008. Obama got 60%.

Romney lost because the Republican Party lost on demographics. More than any other factor, his defeat came because the relevance of his own political party base is diminishing. And will continue to do so as long as those in party control remain the same ideologues. The electorate is becoming less white, younger and more racially and ethnically diverse. That’s pure fact and it’s never going to be what it was just a year or two ago.

And there as this. The suicidal Tea Party affect. The GOP has been changed at its base by a minority of voices more intent on some sort of political “purity” than promoting candidates with broad voter appeal. They run things. One of those suicidal cases happened on my own ballot.
Our county in Southwest Oregon is one of 18 offered a federal “tit” years ago. The feds created a temporary program of paying millions of dollars annually to those counties because federal ownership of forests in the area meant less trees available for private harvesting. There are other definitions but that’s about it. Rather than remember the word “temporary,” most counties added the fed dollars to budgets and kept spending ‘em. Ours was one of the few that banked some as a future hedge. When the feds ended the program a couple of years back, the results were devastating.

We have a little fella in Congress named DeFazio. Been there about 25 years. Has a real short fuse. While he and I’ve a testy relationship, I give him credit for “bringing home the bacon.” DeFazio, a couple other Democrats and a Republican wrote a federal subsidy program extension and – against very, very long odds – shoved it through a gridlocked congress. He got the local backs away from the local wall. For now.

So, how did we thank him? Well, voters in our little blood red county voted – twice – to replace him. Last time just this week. To replace him with the least qualified candidate for public office I’ve seen in my long lifetime. A guy with an oft-demonstrated ignorance of politics; who sees conspiracies behind each of our many trees; who attacks before thinking; would end public education, Social Security and Medicare. A guy so lacking in political skills and bipartisan thinking he couldn’t find a rock in a quarry.

Fortunately, voters in more thoughtful – and appreciative – counties in our congressional district said “thank you” to DeFazio and “no thank you” to the troll.

Therein lies living proof why the GOP is becoming irrelevant. Indeed, given the results of our most recent national election, it may already be. Our nation – and therefore the electorate – is no longer white-Christian-male dominated or terribly conservative. The difference between where we live in our “little-burg-in-the-trees” and where the demographics of this nation have moved is just as stark as that.

Go back to those presidential race statistics. More than 85% of Romney’s vote came from whites. Obama’s 56%. So how did an incumbent president win against high unemployment, a wheezing economy and deeply motivated opposition? Simple. His team read the current demographic makeup of the nation and created a campaign to take full advantage of what Republicans couldn’t reach. The new electorate as it is now. As it will continue to be.

That $4 billion didn’t buy much in Congress. Resident numbers in January won’t change much from today. But, if Republican leadership reads the electoral tea leaves accurately, the President will have stronger hand. While not having a mandate, Congress has been told loud and clear to stop the obstructionist behavior and get to work solving things. That’s where the President will get his strength. He’s got four more years. But members of the House have only two. Given the voter message to “play nice,” and given the declining relevance of the Republican Party as demonstrated in the election, the knuckle draggers could well be gone in 24 months.

In the next 60 days, a debt ceiling increase, crippling budget cuts through sequestration and similar issues that previously brought gridlock will be on the table. Action – immediate action – will be absolutely necessary. If Republicans walk through that mine field with the same heavy steps they’ve used previously, they do so at great career peril.

And just from my own “To Do List,” here are a two tasks at the top. When the next Congress meets in January, Senate Democrats must – MUST – amend the filibuster procedure. Only the majority party can. Either get rid of the practice or enforce the rule that anyone using it will have to stay on the floor – continuously speaking – as was the original intent. The Senate must get back to “majority rule” at 51 votes. Must!

My second item concerns “Citizens United” – the wrongheaded U.S. Supreme Court decision granting corporations the rights of “personhood” and, thus, unlimited financial access to our political process. Corporations, unions and any other entity allowed unfettered, massive financial meddling in our elections must be stopped. Congress must come up with a legislative product that will stand a constitutional test. While there is little evidence the massive amounts poured into the just-completed election drastically change outcomes, even if one race was affected, it was one race too many. Left unchecked, the theocratic billionaires will eventually bend the system their way. That must not happen!

Others will come up with their own lists – their own summaries of what we’ve just been through. Most worth reading. Most worth hearing. But it’s Republicans who need to closely read. And Republicans who need to closely listen. Because if the Party continues its present course, Republican influence in our national affairs will become more and more irrelevant. And that’s not good.

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