Will Republicans Unskew Themselves?

(By NCrissie B)

The good news is that Dean Chambers, who admitted his assumptions about the 2012 electorate were skewed by Rasmussen models and wishful thinking and sort-of-apologized to the New York Times‘ Nate Silver, is at least more self-aware than Karl Rove. Rove’s on-air challenge when Fox News called Ohio and the election for President Obama quickly became comedy gold.

Never one to miss an opportunity to ingest his own toejam, Rove dined on his foot again yesterday:

Karl Rove told Fox News’ Megyn Kelly on Thursday that President Obama won re-election “by suppressing the vote” with negative campaign ads that “turned off” potential voters, citing a victory that carried a smaller percentage of the popular vote compared to that of the 2008 presidential race.

UnSkewed … or UnSuppressed?

Seriously, Karl? After Republicans waged a nationwide campaign to limit voter registration, impose ever-stricter voter ID laws, and reduce early voting periods in what both a Pennsylvania legislator and the former chairman of the Florida Republican Party admitted was a partisan attempt to suppress likely Democratic voters, you accuse President Obama of “suppressing the vote” … by criticizing his opponent in campaign ads?

This is, of course, a classic Rove tactic of accusing your opponent of what you have been or will be accused of doing. And Rove, now having to defend his American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS SuperPAC spending to donors wondering aloud how their money was spent, may be flailing around for any gambit to save what remains of his reputation and his lucrative income stream.

Still, Rove’s response highlights a still-untold story about the 2012 election. Romney staffers said he was “shellshocked” by the results Tuesday night, and his lead pollster admitted his internal polling presumed an electorate more like the older, whiter turnout of the 2010 midterms. Were his, Rasmussen’s, and similar models based on a belief that 2008 was a high water mark for women, people of color, and young voters … or on a belief that Republicans’ aggressive voter suppression efforts would succeed?

Demographics and Beyond

Obama advisor David Axelrod said Republicans have “soul searcing to do as to whether they’re going to represent the United States of America as the United States of America is and not based on some 50-year-old model.”

But as Axelrod and Obama pollster Joel Benenson note, the lesson of 2012 is not merely America’s changing demographics:

The president’s victory was a triumph of vision, not of demographics. He won because he articulated a set of values that define an America that the majority of us wish to live in: A nation that makes the investments we need to strengthen and grow the middle class. A nation with a fair tax system, and affordable and excellent education for all its citizens. A nation that believes that we’re most prosperous when we recognize that we are all in it together.

Benenson notes that too many in the media, perhaps spurred by the Romney campaign’s insistence that 2012 would be referendum on President Obama, focused on cherry-picked data like unemployment, consumer confidence, and right/wrong track numbers. But Benenson had deeper data:

Such conventional indicators failed to capture the mind-set of the American people who always had a broader view of the nation’s economic situation and what had happened to their lives. A national survey of 800 voters conducted by our firm – not for the Obama campaign – during the final weekend before Tuesday’s vote, confirmed that a clear majority of Americans viewed this election in the context of the scale of the economic crisis we faced and the deep recession that ensued.

Two key data points illustrate why Americans were always far more open to President Obama’s message and accomplishments than commentators assumed. By a three to one margin (74 percent to 23 percent), voters said that what the country faced since 2008 was an “extraordinary crisis more severe than we’ve seen in decades” as opposed to “a typical recession that the country has every several years.” At the same time, a clear majority, 57 percent, believed that the problems we faced after the crisis were “too severe for anyone to fix in a single term,” while only 4 in 10 voters believed another president would have been able to do more than Mr. Obama to get the economy moving in the past four years.

Simply, American voters were smarter than Republican strategists hoped. Or, if those strategists truly believed their own story of President Obama’s first-term failure, the voters were smarter than the strategists themselves.

“We the People”

Republicans lost the White House and seats in both the Senate and House because their platform of wealth, white, heterosexual, Christian, male privilege – what Fox News‘ Bill O’Reilly called “traditional America” – is out of step with the American electorate.

Exit polls showed a majority of Americans favor tax increases to reduce our deficit and invest in our future. The election was also a banner day for LGBT equality and a backlash against the GOP’s war on women. Minnesota Democratic Rep. Keith Ellison won a fourth term with 65% of the vote, despite repeated attempts – including those by Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) – to smear Ellison’s Muslim faith. In Arkansas, as Politicususa‘s Sarah Jones quipped, “A Neo-Confederate, a slavery apologist and a death penalty for children advocate walk into an election … and lose big.

The 2012 election was about more than skewed polls and demographic margins. It was about ideas and values, and a majority of American voters chose progressive Democratic ideas and values. As MSNBC’s Martin Bashir put it, “Hate lost.”

If Republicans can unskew themselves from that, we can not only have a more productive political dialogue. We can also create “a more perfect Union” where “We the People” … means all of us.

(Crossposted from Blogistan Polytechnic Institute (BPICampus.com))

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