Milwaukee County Labor Council AFL-CIO

September 17, 2014

In The News

Could it be? Obama won because of what he does

The election was barely over Nov. 8 when unions and progressives staged national events insisting that any budget deal protect Medicare and Social Security and let the Bush tax cuts for the rich expire. In Milwaukee, AFL-CIO executive VP from D.C., Arlene Holt Baker (left), joined newly re-elected US Rep. Gwen Moore outside her office for a crowded media event. Also in attendance (background) was MALC leader Sheila Cochran.

By Dominique Paul Noth
Editor, Milwaukee Labor Press
Posted November 8, 2012


Amazingly and in defiance of the media’s “squeaker” expectations, Barack Obama overcame a slowness in economic recovery news that would have previously destroyed any candidate for the White House. Now hot in negotiations with obstinate opponents on correcting the budget and ending tax cuts for the rich, it may be high time he reminded those stubborn folks of what the voters decreed – not status quo by any means but “your job is not as important as our jobs,” to paraphrase the president. And they re-elected someone good at his job.

Obama trusted the American people Nov. 6 to recognize how well he had danced us back from a cliff and then moved the country astutely forward on all fronts – domestic as well as foreign. He demonstrated in attitude as well as vision that he was the agent of change. The national vote may not count as much as the battleground states, but he won that, too, by 2%.

He exposed the weaknesses of the confidence men on the other side whose generalities and promises became increasingly flawed weapons. More amazing to angry citizens who shared his background or policies, he emphasized true belief in America and ignored some of the ugliest campaign deceptions and personal attacks in my memory.

As he did in 2010 he faced the truth of the vote, a sharp contrast to the denial by Republican visible to any TV viewer of any network till Romney finally and graciously conceded.

The result had to brace the nation’s image of itself. Obama won a second term in unassailable terms – not 1% as envisioned by the Wisconsin GOP but by 7% in the state. Even Tammy Baldwin took out Tommy Thompson with a 5% edge that few had predicted.

Nationally the voters November 6 in effect told politicians to buckle down and support the grownup in the room.

There were some remarkable results particularly given the headwinds facing Obama and an opposition that had made defeating him their No. 1 goal, at which they badly failed. He emerged stronger in Wisconsin than he had in 2008. The turnout in Milwaukee alone was an amazing 87% of registered voters, but Obama even won counties that re-elected GOP vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan to the House, underlying how little help Ryan was to the top GOP ticket.

Obama also became the first Democrat since FDR to win more than 50% of the national popular vote in two back-to-back races.

Improved over his runaway 2008 victory with 71% of Latinos, 70% of Asian voters, 60% of all 18-29 and 60% unmarried women. These are the surface figures of the new majority hidden under that larger turnout figure of 72% whites as a voting basis, with Obama controlling decisive portions of that figure while evangelical votes for Romney failed to improve and may have fallen a bit.

Romney and Ryan also became the first political tag teams since McGovern-Shriver in the Nixon era to lose both their home states.

And the GOP must take its head out of the Sandy. If Obama was helped by the timing of the hurricane, it was because it was an opportunity unsought to demonstrate his professionalism and the guts under his rhetoric – the ability much maligned to cut through red tape and work across the aisle.

His opponents deceived about -- and even his own campaign strangely didn’t centralize on -- his remarkable successes in steady policy in his first two years until they blocked any progress (and even then he made progress through executive order and foreign action). His early successes included reversing “don’t ask don’t tell,” eliminating middle-men profit-takers in student loans, supporting methods for women to claim equal pay for equal work, stimulating the economy with infrastructure repairs and shovel-ready projects (many quietly pushed by the right wing), controlling Wall Street excess , rescuing key industries and (did you know?) instituting policies that actually cut the debt.

He did point out on the campaign trail that he ended one war, was winding down the other and helped change the world without putting more boots on the ground – all easy points to make in a speech – but he ducked discussing a range of fine-tuning changes in civil rights and fiscal guardianship. These were not detailed in those thousands of TV ads and hundreds of speeches.

But you can’t dispute the success of the strategy, which was emphasize better direction for the nation and actual plans and accomplishments unlike the sky pie that Romney offered (Romney in effect said since he had done well in the past the voters should trust him in the future). Obama had both a record in office and a philosophy that relied on America’s belief in its own work ethic and pulling together. He spoke of trusting a public that would believe in him despite the dishonest and well-funded attacks against him. Apparently, the voters overcame the blitzkrieg of doubts orchestrated in anti-Obama ads – or were so outraged they responded with support.

While Tommy Thompson did pushups to refute doubts about his mental fitness, he slugged harder right than ever before to comfort his money machine. Meanwhile Tammy Baldwin campaigned tirelessly across the state with a consistent and more attractive policy. The result was a 5% victory margin to become Wisconsin’s first female US Senator.

Did you notice how cleverly Obama sidestepped through action and argument that 2010 GOP election victory that was supposed to shame him into submission? By refusing to pay much attention, he reduced those results to largely what they were – overreaching fear about the character of the American people, misplaced boogeyman tactics against him, health care and the deep hole the country was in (dug by the Republicans). But mainly, he treated 2010 as a political aberration, which it proved to be. In clinging to that election as some people do to their guns and religion, the GOP disappointed its most thoughtful members.

This was in presidential terms hardly the status quo election the GOP and sympathetic bloggers pretend, arguing that the US House remained in GOP hands and scoffing at how the Senate, more reflective of national tendencies, moved quite strongly to the “get things done” Democratic side – picking up loyalists while the GOP expected the opposite.

If you want to understand how the election was a thumping of the GOP platforms and candidate choices, look at how they lost in states they normally control – Indiana, Missouri, Montana and North Dakota. To the victories of Claire McCaskill and Joe Donnelly add the progressive victories of Elizabeth Warren in Massachusetts, Tammy Baldwin in Wisconsin, Chris Murphy in Connecticut and others. Even in North Dakota, a state Romney carried, Democrat Heidi Heitkamp won the senate seat by 3,000 votes over another rape policy extremist, Rick Berg. Heitkamp ran away from Obama on energy policy in a state aswim with oil jobs but she also supports the Buffet Rule, defended the core of Obamacare and is a fiscal conservative in line with her retiring predecessor and policy wonk, Democrat Kent Conrad.

There were bad things in this election. Voters had to stand for hours in line simply to vote, something Obama himself said needed to be immediately addressed. But the world also saw how a determined public provided some balance to the fear-mongering over the deficit (more than two-thirds caused before Obama) and slow job creation.

And the voters absolutely saved for future generations universal health care, the Obama bill full of ideas that were originally Republican to increase customers for private health companies.

Actually most of Obamacare hasn’t been implemented and now will be, with useful tweaks. Between Obama’s re-election, the increased Senate Democratic control and the Supreme Court legal validation, Obamacare’s overall existence is safe now and will quickly diminish as any sort of national political football.

Though expect Gov. Walker’s reluctance to do the simple right thing to keep the issue alive in Wisconsin.

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