The Little Win
If you watch MSNBC or PBS or listen to NPR by now you've probably heard, repeatedly, how Mr. Obama's brilliant political tacticians took his 2008 victory, refined it, and "improved" it. But such a notion is the exact opposite of what liberals (correctly) criticize as the right wing echo chamber and will, logically, if incorporated into liberal strategic political planning, have exactly the same negative consequences. The bothersome fact is that this year Mr. Obama received about 61,617,000 votes, about 7,840,000 fewer votes (for purposes of numerical rhetoric more than 10% fewer) than in 2008 — fewer, it should be noted, in the overall context of the U.S. population having grown during the past four years by about 10,300,000 people. In comparison, if Mr. Obama had received the same number of votes in 2008 he still would have narrowly beaten John McCain, by about 1,600,000 votes, but Mr. Obama's 2012 tally is, surprisingly, smaller than George W. Bush's 2004 win with 62,000,000 votes. To claim, then, that this election has been an "improvement" for Democrats is to entirely miss the point.
I hesitate to disagree with Nate Silver, whose almost supernatural statistical powers have proven themselves in important and diverse real world situations. I don't, however, see a strong built in advantage for Democrats over the next two presidential cycles. Instead, I think it makes better sense to understand that both John McCain and Mitt Romney were deeply, deeply flawed candidates who got pushed to the head of the Republican line when no higher caliber candidates made themselves available. One can argue — many do — that the Tea Party and the Evangelicals have made it impossible for a Republican candidate with genuine mass appeal to emerge, and there is some truth to that, but I think the deeper reality is that the Republican establishment is quite happy, thank you very much, having conservative DINOs like Mr. Obama in office.
Also worth noting, despite that increase in the U.S. population the number of registered voters has actually fallen, by about 7,000,000 — yet one more indication of how unenthused the public has become with the Democratic Party and with politics generally.
In short, for liberal cheerleaders (Rachel Maddow, that means you) to put their faith in the Democratic Party as a bulwark against the hard men of the Republican right is naive in the extreme. Although I don't know the answers I think we're past due for politics by other means.