It is not clear if there are broad conclusions to be drawn from the outcome of the presidential election.
We do know that the election was not as close as many had predicted and that Obama won by about 3 million votes and that he received 62 percent of the electoral votes. If we were spared most of the misery of the too-long campaign, would the outcome have been different if the candidates had only been allowed to campaign for two months and only allowed to use designated public funding?
We will probably never know because our oppressive and dysfunctional way of campaigning will probably never see major change. If it did, then you wouldn’t have to be a millionaire to become president and that would be so un-American.
It is clear that the obscene amount of money spent did not correlate to outcomes. That is one of the most satisfying results of this election cycle. Despite the fact that the Supreme Court messed up the entire political process with its Citizens United decision, the people with the most money were not able to buy the election.
That was especially true and extremely reassuring in Vermont. Vermonters First, a political Pac made possible by the court decision, was funded by nearly a million dollars of one person’s family money. They supported Republican candidates and they saturated the media with ads for Vince Illuzi for Auditor and Wendy Wilton for Treasurer.
It seemed to the bombarded observer that Illuzi and Wilton had a very good chance of winning, but the wisdom of Vermont voters prevailed. We will never know exactly why Illuzi and Wilton lost by substantial margins, but I have to believe that many voters were turned off by the barrage of ads and that they were going to make it clear that their votes could not be bought.
Call it the McMullen effect. Jack McMullen ran against Tunbridge dairy farmer Fred Tuttle a number of years ago for a U.S. Senate seat and, despite spending a pile of his own money, was soundly defeated. McMullen ran against Bill Sorrell this year and lost his bid for Attorney General. Once again, money got him into the race but it did not help him win.
On the national scene it was more than money that swayed the vote. Was it simply that the majority of Americans felt that Obama was on the right course for fixing this country’s problems? Did they believe that if a Republican entered the White House that we would be subjected to the same old policies that got us into the economic and military messes that we are trying to fix? Or, is the philosophical foundation that supports the core beliefs of the Republican party just too extreme?
I want to believe that the Republicans do not understand who Americans really are. We have always been a nation of immigrants. Politicians should be sensitive to that historical fact. The face of the country constantly changes and that means that voter demographics change at each election cycle.
You can’t expect to win a national election in 2012 by appealing to white affluent voters while taking punitive stands on immigration issues and making it clear that you want to dismantle all the social programs that support the more vulnerable among us.
You can’t expect to win a national election in 2012 without appealing to young voters, without appealing to Hispanic voters and without appealing to newer immigrants who still have relatives who are trying to either move to this country or trying to become citizens.
You can win a national election in 2012 if you are smart, honest and make it clear that you understand and respect the makeup of the country that you want to lead. Now we have to make the members of congress understand this. That is the challenge we face.
Richard Davis is a registered nurse and executive director of Vermont Citizens Campaign for Health. He writes from Guilford and welcomes comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.