At about 6:15 pm last night, the announcer on ABC news radio intoned about the US election results, Little has changed — referring to Obama being returned to office and the near status quo balance of power in the Senate and the House. She then went on to ask the US correspondent, Is [Obama] older and wiser? That level of ineptitude and platitudineity made me want to smack my forehead with a shard of ice and a splash of bourbon.*
Obama speaks, listen: “It doesn’t matter whether you’re black or white or Hispanic or Asian or Native American or young or old or rich or poor, able, disabled, gay, or straight, you can make it here in America if you’re willing to try.”
Which previous presidential acceptance speech has had to call on such terms of diversity and inclusion, up to the specification of that once taboo group, gay. How is this not extraordinary? How is this not change; change we can now believe in?
Once we had to rely on news bulletins — now, for an occasion like the US 2012 elections we can source in real time as much information as we have energy and interest. So I know that “Little has changed” is simply, deeply wrong. I may be unable to parse the evening’s news with the psephological delicacy of an Antony Green or a Nate Silver, or analyze it like a Guy Rundle but a wet finger in the air tells which way the wind blows.
As anyone could who wished to, I knew that profound events had occurred. Signs and symptoms:
Gay Senate candidate wins: For the first time an out gay candidate has been voted to the Senate, Tammy Baldwin in Wisconsin.
Same-sex marriage by popular demand: For the first time, same-sex marriage has been approved by popular vote (and not legislature) in three states: Maine, Maryland and (
most likely definitely) Washington state.
Marijuana by popular demand: For the first time, marijuana (for recreational use) has been made legal by popular vote: Colorado and Washington state.
Women by popular demand: The largest number of women were elected to the Senate — at least 19.
Women rule by popular demand: New Hampshire elects female governor and all-female congress members; two in the House and two incumbent senators.
Asian-American female senator: Mazie Hirono is the first woman Asian-American elected to the Senate (born in Japan).
Obamacare secured, reducing the uninsured by 30 million people.
The White Establishment Minority: Mirror, mirror: America takes a look — “According to the exit polls, all the elements of the ‘Obama coalition’ turned out for him in big numbers: women, Hispanics, African-Americans, young voters, gays and lesbians, and highly educated professionals … Obama lost the white vote by more than fifteen per cent, according to CNN’s exit poll, but it didn’t matter.” Slate: “Romney won 48.1 percent of the overall vote. White people who voted for Romney made up 42.5 percent of the overall vote. That works out to 88 percent of Romney voters being white.” Eyebrow-raising! No, gobsmacking.
Or, in that other mirror on Fox , as reported by the Atlantic wire: Half the country wants free stuff, [Bill] O’Reilly said. What is that half like? First he hinted: Latinos, blacks, and maybe women would vote for Obama. Then he got reeeal explicit: “Obama wins because it’s not a traditional America anymore. The white establishment is the minority. People want things.”
People want things! Little has changed. Black and white splinters into millions of colour pixels. And the world turns.
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The death of the political pundit and the sound of Silver
This re-election wasn’t supposed to happen given the “environment of sluggish economic growth and virtually unlimited campaign contributions.” And yet the geeks — the datameisters and psephologists — predicted it would. The epicentric pollster Nate Silver of NYT–538, a superstar after his pinpoint 2008 poll readings, in his final estimate, gave Obama a 91 percent chance of winning, estimating the Electoral College tally at 313-225 and the popular vote at 51-48 Obama.
Here is a chart as of late election night comparing Silver’s forecast map (left) with real results:
Andrew Sullivan thinks that pundits should be held accountable for their predictions. (Slate‘s scorecard: eg Karl Rove gave Obama 259.) Note the ones dated on election day by the deep-Republican think-tank of National Review Online, their “crystal ball”: “Like Michael Barone, I think there’s a wave building the Democrats aren’t even aware of. It will make itself known pretty soon,” wrote Noemie Emerie. Barone is a big deal conservative pundit; he forecasted a Romney win by a landslide of 315 Electoral votes: “Romney beats Obama, handily”.
But reality won. Silver and co. came far closer to the final results than most of the pundits. Eg, see this jokey-ish Politico article, titled, “Election results 2012: Pundits who predicted right”. But the great funny thing is most of them got it wrong. Of the 17 (inc. Obama’s African half-brother) only four said Obama would take over 300 votes. (And here’s their list of those who got it real wrong; ie Obama to lose, all of them Republican-identifying.)
The numbers win, two elections running. This is another kind of culture shock: “the people” will no longer have to listen to the informed insider trading special information. Now they can cross-check polls and pollsters. They can hear what they themselves are saying, as transmitted by large scale polling. As for the pundits — well, their number is up.
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* The commentary on ABC News 24 TV was pretty worthless. It was far better to tune in via web to American TV commentary, or to any of their metro radio stations. And btw, why do Australian right-leaning commentators — Tom Switzer, Alexander Downer, Kerry Chikarovski — feel obliged to side with American Republicans? Who are way to the right of Australian Liberals. That’s ideology idiocy. Australian Liberals are comparatively mild, like centrist-right Democrats.
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“They want stuff” — the authorised marvellous Bill O’Reilly quote in full (via Slate):
Because it’s a changing country, the demographics are changing. It’s not a traditional America anymore. And there are 50 percent of the voting public who want stuff. They want things and who is going to give them things? President Obama. He knows it and he ran on it.
And whereby 20 years ago President Obama would have been roundly defeated by an establishment candidate like Mitt Romney. The white establishment is now the minority. And the voters, many of them, feel that this economic system is stacked against them and they want stuff.
You’re going to see a tremendous Hispanic vote for President Obama. Overwhelming for President Obama and women will probably break President Obama’s way. People feel that they are entitled to things and which candidate, between the two, is going to give them things?