Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Historical Perspectives for 2012 Election

President Barrack Obama's victory over Republican challenger Mitt Romney reminds us of the importance of studying and learning from history.  Over the last few months I have commented on the issues in this election and have presented comparisons between attitudes before and during the Civil War and the current political environment.  This election illustrated more than many the relevance of understanding our nation's history.

For Republicans, no matter how disappointed you are about the Presidential and Senate results, remember that the nation survived a civil war and will continue to be a world leader.  Our system of government provides a wonderful set of checks and balances.  Issues will be debated and compromises will be reached.

For Democrats, your enthusiasm has to be tempered by the challenges facing the country and staunch opposition from the Republican House of Representatives.  Much has been said about the divisiveness in the country in the aftermath of President Obama's election.  This same disunity would have faced Mr. Romney had he been victorious.  The issues that confront President Obama would have confronted a President Romney. 

The election was not a mandate on President Obama's first term.  It was a vote on which candidate the American public wanted to lead the nation through the current crisis.  This is similar to the 1864 election between George McClellan and Abraham Lincoln.  While northerners wanted to end the war, the Union electorate chose Lincoln to lead them through the crisis.  President Obama took a lesson from the history books by not running on his record, but focusing on his opponent.  This same strategy helped Republican George W. Bush win election.

One of the issues that confounded the Romney campaign was the voluntary deportation of illegal aliens.  I discussed this position in a post Lincoln and Romney on Self-Deportation.  My conclusion was that it was a flawed policy during the Lincoln Administration and it was a flawed policy today.  Unfortunately, Mr. Romney campaign strategists did not read the post and this policy was a major factor in his defeat.  Seventy-one percent of Hispanics voted for President Obama.  Whether future Republican presidential candidates can reach out to minorities and not offend their base of support remains a major problem facing the party especially in terms of the growth of minorities.  Romney's support came Whites (59%), Americans over 65 years old (56%), families making more than $100,000 per year (54%), and Protestants (57%).   This electoral base seems to be in opposition to a minority base of lower wage earners, non-Protestants, and Hispanics.  On this same demographic theme, young people seemed to embrace Obama's message more than Romney's with 60% of 18-29 year olds and 52% of 30-44 year olds voting for Obama.

The Civil War theme of states' rights was very prominent in this election.  The conflict between Federal and state jurisdiction is as old as the Constitution and will always be an issue in our country.  What may surprise some readers is that the conflict also occurred in the Confederacy especially in regard to raising a national military.  Again student's of history would realize that this issue is not a new theme.  There is no resolution of this conflict.  State control of various issues will be influenced by economic-based decisions made by the electorate in choice of residence.  Education, taxation, immigration, and other issues will impact the state's economic future.

Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation and recruiting of black soldiers helped turn the tide of victory.  Another similar factor was the Republican administration's enlistment of immigrants.  These two ethnic/demographic groups helped propel the Union to victory.  Today's Republican party has failed to attract support from blacks (93% for Obama) and the new Hispanic wave of immigrants (71%).

Another issue that the Democrats used more effectively was communication technology.  Facebook, Twitter, and e-mail communications were used in the Obama campaign allowing them to reach a wider and younger audience.  Adapting strategies to changing technology was an important lesson learned in the Civil War. Rifled muskets and artillery changed tactics and fortifications.  Some generals adapted and embraced the new technology while others refused to understand and utilize the new technology. Post-election analysis has criticized the Republicans and praised the Democrats for how they used the latest media.

The challenges remain for both parties.  For the Democrats, it means fulfilling the promises made to their constituents and reaching out to white voters.  For Republicans, it means appealing to Lincoln's base of support while not alienating their base of white, male voters.

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