This was a close election, right? A nation bitterly divided between red and blue. Two parties evenly splitting the vote. Two starkly different visions of America. Obama squeaking out a bare 50.3% of the popular vote, although he carried the electoral college handily. Except that it wasn’t really close and we aren’t that divided. No president presiding over an economy this bad should have been re-elected; it should have been a landslide for Mitt Romney, and the Democrats should have lost the Senate. If this election revealed anything, it’s not a divided electorate, it’s the glaring weakness of the Republican Party, which has become a party almost exclusively of rich old white men.
Demographics is destiny, they say, and the GOP has spent the last 20 years alienating the fastest-growing segments of the population. It has gone out of its way to drive away Blacks, Hispanics, women and the young, presenting the Democrats with a winning coalition broad enough to deliver a victory even in the worst economic climate in more than 70 years. Had unemployment been, say, five percent, Obama would have won in a landslide and the Dems likely would have retaken the House. Worse for the Republicans, the map is turning more and more blue. The solid South is solid no more, with Virginia and Florida going blue and North Carolina in play. The West, too, is turning Democratic, with Colorado, New Mexico and Nevada joining the West Coast, and Arizona beginning to shift. No region of the country is going the other way.
Now the fun begins. How will the Republican Party react? Will it adopt a more conciliatory strategy now that its four-year opposition to anything Obama has failed, or will it dig into that destructive playbook again? House Speaker Boehner seems willing to work across the aisle, now that the Tea Party has been somewhat rebuked (if not chastened). Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell is another story. His classless and off-key remarks after the election don’t seem to offer much hope. Is it too much to hope that his own caucus might have something other than another four fruitless years of obstructionism in mind?