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Our Status Is Quo
Peter Funt
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Mitt Romney and Barack Obama were more gracious and eloquent after the election than during the long campaign. They each sent the right signals Tuesday night, but will anything change?
The real news of the ’12 election is that the nation is more sharply divided than ever.
“At a time like this,” Romney told his Boston audience, “we can’t risk partisan bickering and political posturing.” He said things in America are at a “critical point,” and he appealed to citizens as well as politicians to “rise to the occasion.”
For once, it didn’t sound like political-speak. It was the conclusion of a man who loves his country and had just lost an election despite winning the male vote, the white vote, the married vote, and the vote of people over age 45.
In Chicago, President Obama told an enthusiastic crowd, “What makes America exceptional are the bonds that hold together the most diverse nation on earth.” Obama won a remarkable 93 percent of the black vote, plus over 70 percent of the Hispanic and Asian vote. He won among females, unmarried people, and those earning less than $50,000 a year.
In truth, Obama and Romney were each victorious — among the distinctly different segments of our population for which each party’s platform was designed. Voters, for the most part, were over-informed. Rich folks knew that Obama wanted to raise their taxes; poor people knew that Romney hoped to cut their government assistance. And so forth and so on, through a long and contentious list of issues from reproductive rights, to gay rights; from energy to environment.
Perhaps the clearest sign of how sharply divided the nation is on economic and social issues is that war — usually a flashpoint in presidential elections, especially when we’re in the middle of one — seemed to matter very little. Indeed, the candidates were hard pressed in their final debate on foreign affairs to find points on which they disagreed.
“The recognition that we have common hopes and dreams won’t end all the gridlock,” the president said, “or solve all our problems or substitute for the painstaking work of building consensus and making the difficult compromises needed to move this country forward.”
Hours later there was a slight hint at progress, as House Speaker John Boehner said Republicans are now willing to “accept new revenue” as a means to avoid the “fiscal cliff.”
Sen. Olympia Snowe, the moderate Republican from Maine who is stepping down, cautions, “Our leaders must understand that there is not only strength in compromise, courage in conciliation and honor in consensus-building — but also a political reward for following these tenets.” Alas, Snowe believes things won’t change in the foreseeable future.
The nation entered the 2012 election with only a handful of “battleground” states not clearly defined as red or blue. Based on Tuesday’s results there will be even fewer such battlegrounds in the years ahead.
The encouraging news for Democrats is that the population continues to expand in their direction. The frustration for Republicans is that no amount of campaign spending or sophisticated marketing will change people’s minds about certain core beliefs. Thus, the GOP can’t broaden its base without fundamentally altering some of its positions.
When all was said and done, the nation decided to pretty much leave things exactly where they’ve been.
To borrow an old cliche from the legal profession, President Obama seems to have won the equivalent of a pie-eating contest, in which the prize is more pie.
Peter Funt is a writer and speaker and can be reached at