Since the hotly contested Citizens United ruling in 2010 (in which the Supreme Court ruled that corporations are people in the legal sense and that contributions are essentially unlimited) there has been much discussion of what negative effects it might have on campaigns. People were rightly concerned that it could lead to widespread corruption and an increase in the power that large corporations could wield in elections.
Throughout the 2012 election season, we have all seen the effects of Citizens United, which has proven to be the most expensive campaign in history. Independent donors poured millions of dollars into the production of ads, most of which turned out to be negative. The Romney campaign spent over a billion dollars, much of which came from Super-PACs and Wall Street (Mr. Romney received more than twice as much money from Super-PACs as President Obama, and nearly three times as much from Wall Street). In fact, the contributions of just two of the pro-Romney groups, American Crossroads and Restore Our Future, exceeded the total amount of money spent on the Bush campaign in 2000.
However, in light of the money spent, the result seems pretty negligible. Is it possible that our fears of groups like Citizens United might be calmed by the fact that the extra cash didn’t really make a difference? As David Weigel, a writer for Slate, notes, “In the grand sweep of American Politics, never has so much money been spent for so little gain.” Although some argue that this is due to the incompetence and poor quality of anti-Obama ads, but if anyone has seen an anti-Romney ad, they would know that they aren’t too great either. So, this leads me to believe that it was not the ads themselves that were the problem; it was the message. No amount of money can convince people to vote for someone they don’t like who back positions they don’t support. Another reason why the ads failed is that they were mostly attacking Obama for the supposed failure of his key pieces of legislation, such as Obamacare. Despite all of the negative discussion about health care reform, President Obama’s reelection proves that at least a majority of voters support Obamacare, which was presented as one of his primary achievements during the campaign.
This one of the main reasons why this 2012 election is so important. In 2008, America was reeling after eight years of Bush, and almost any credible Democratic candidate could’ve won against the Bush-tainted Republicans (except John Kerry, apparently). Obama’s election in 2008 mostly rested on a hope and change message, and his reelection affirms that people still believe in his message. Obamacare has now survived every possible attack that has been thrown at it, from the endless challenges from House Republicans to a Supreme Court ruling. President Obama’s reelection is final proof that his reforms are here to stay.
Although Obamacare and tax reform will most likely prove to be the most important successes of the Obama Administration, President Obama’s reelection also serves as hopefully the final debate over the social policies that have been at the heart of politics for decades. Perhaps the most visible of these is immigration reform, which Republicans have traditionally opposed. Even moderates, such as pre-2012 election Mitt Romney, have been forced to adopt these views to stand a chance in the ultra-competitive primaries.
It’s ironic that the same right-wing shift that allowed Mr. Romney to defeat strong adversaries such as Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum in the primaries also caused him to lose support from women and minorities, two important voting groups. Although George Bush did not do too well with minorities, he fared much better than Mr. Romney, who only received about 30% of the Latino vote. President Obama also won the majority of African-American votes (95%), Asian-Americans (73%), and women (55%). This was more than enough to overcome his loss with white men, of whom Mr. Romney won 55%.
These figures highlight what is probably the biggest problem the GOP faces: the electorate no longer is ruled by white male voters. Women and minorities now make up a larger portion of the voting populace, and they have been consistently turned off by the Republican Party’s ignorance of their existence and importance. The rightward shift in social policies was intended to increase support for Republicans among whites, particularly Evangelicals, but it seems that they ignored the negative affect it has had on almost all other groups in the electorate. In particular, the set of policies that have become known collectively as the War on Women seems to be the most useless policy shift in recent history. It failed to motivate its intended targets while enraging women and men across party lines.
The Republican party must learn women’s rights, gay marriage, and other issues that used to be polarizing are just not anymore. They have little to gain by maintaining their current social conservatism, and much to lose. Elections can no longer be won with just the white male vote, and the Republican Party will need to reach out to other groups to stay relevant.