Monday, December 3, 2012


The Redskins were slated to win that game. The Carolina Panthers, a team with a 1-5 record in the football season to date, were going to face the Redskins in their last home game before Election Day. The ‘skins had lost the last two games, and were looking to turn this streak around. But anyone who defied the predictions and put their bets on the Panthers won a potload of cash. Online, one Redskins fan vividly recalled the 2004 election-predicting Redskins game that was not: “In 2004…there were bad calls… they took points off the scoreboard…” (This was the first anomaly after 16 correct election calls, the Redskins lost the game, but Bush won a narrow reelection). This victory for the Panthers was one attributed to the god of the elections; the game was fated to reveal who would win the election: when the Redskins lose, the party controlling the White House changes. Based on this predictor, Romney was going to win this one. Other signs included the unemployment rate (no incumbent since FDR has won with a higher unemployment rate than what it was at his first election) and the incumbent’s job approval rating (no incumbent can win with a rating under 50%-- Obama had 49% at the end of October). But, as 99% of us know, Obama pulled it off. In my circle; our America; the student body of the US Merchant Marine Academy, Romney's loss left us young voters with mixed feelings; and deep philospophical questions. Romney performed well in our America-- This is to say the America that consists of the military, of those making (or envision making) $50,000 per year, and a higher-than-average proportion of Caucasians. This America was Romney's America, and seeing how well he was performing in our America, he was confident in his chances for victory- it will now be a minor legend that he had only prepared a victory speech for Election night in Boston. Just a glimpse into my circle is is the kitchen table on the ship where I spent the three months prior to the election: The 26-year-old son of an Army officer from Virginia concerned about Obama’s relation with the military, and of the income tax rate (“They’re milking me and my girlfriend!”). The 28-year-old libertarian who left California for Nevada because of taxes and restrictions on gun ownership (“ There’s no income tax in Nevada—my mortgage now is what I was paying in taxes in California”). The gold-buying, gun owning 60-something from California who is disturbed by the increased activism of the federal government over his lifetime—and by how his state destroyed itself politically (“The problem is the young sheeple, their colleges, and their shoebox apartments—but you give me hope”). The well-read 50-something moderate from Vermont who thinks the Obama agenda is the wrong track for the country. And, speaking in a whisper… the NPR-listening liberal from DC… That’s the Captain they’re referring to. With so many reasons to vote for Romney, how did he lose? Simply put, Pro-Romney America made up a smaller part of America than it thought it had. It was Romney's lack of connection with the reality of changed voter demographics that cannot be understated. Young (white) voters under 30 went for Romney: Forget the preconceived notions of liberal youth: Romney won with young caucasian voters. That's all and well: In a survey of students at the USMMA, where I attend college, At least 80% of students consider themselves white. (White males make up 73% of the student population). But the prevalence of young caucasians at my college is an anachronism: between 35 and 40% of young voters under 30 are Black or Hispanic. Not to forget our Asian-American young voters. Given that the nationwide median age of presidential election voters is 44, it will become statistically unlikely for a presidential candidate in the future to win an election by the strength of the white vote alone. Despite winning 56% of the young white vote (McCain carried 42% of these voters in 2008), Romney won only 38% of the youth vote overall. ( ) The white vote won't win you the winning ticket anymore: Obama is the first president to be elected without the majority of the white vote. He achieved that distiction in 2008, when McCain won 53% of the white vote. It made news fairly soon after this recent election that Romney won 59% of the white vote, and swept 90% of the white vote in Misissippi and Alabama. Many commentators whose articles I read pointed out that whites in "liberal" states were responsible for re-electing our President. But according to a grid from, Obama won the "white vote" in just seven New England states and Hawaii. States where Obama won the white vote in 2012: Vermont—66.4% Rhode Island—58.9% Massachusetts—55.9% Maine—54.8% Hawaii—53.5% New York—51.9% Connecticut—51.8% New Hampshire—51.3% It's no secret that Romney banked on high voter turnout among whites for his re-election. Indeed, Romney fared as well among white voters as George H.W. Bush did in 1988 when he swept 40 states. The simple truth is that voter demographics have changed, and banking on the white vote for victory is not a solution anymore in a good number of states. Take into account the states Obama won in 2012 with low support among white voters: Virginia-- 34.4% Florida-- 37.4% Nevada-- 37.8% Ohio-- 41.8% New Mexico-- 42.2% (If Romney had won these states, he would be the 45th President of the USA). There is a small tidbit of good news: we don't really live in a Red State vs Blue State America. The divisions are not as stark as the state line: Red Americans live among Blue Americans. They may be neighbors. But the circles we affiliate ourselves with, or are put into, may define our view of what is happening around us. As much as my circle put our belief in the "Big Mo'" Romney was riding after his October 3rd primary; another circle, say, liberal-arts college students, saw an Obama win as inevitable. The results, however, draw into question how integrated our society actually is. If America is really post-racial, how does the vote split so cleanly on ethnic lines, including among young voters? They (mainstream media and intellectia) talk about "multicultural America". How young people of my generation, of different ethnicities, interact seemlessly with each other. Says David Burgos for the industry magazine Ad Age, "Kids and young adults, for example, are more open to diversity in advertising because their world is already majority-minority". This talk of a "multicultural America", a diverse (and politically liberal) Obama-era America, is manifested in local listings of "most diverse elementary schools", parents going out of their way to ensure their children grow up in multicultural environments, and in the diverse crowds at Obama rallies that you see on TV. Perhaps, the mainstream media and intellectia shares the slim worldview that my cicle had. As seen by how the vote split, their view of America is not as wide as it ought to be. "Multicultural America", where racial tension of any degree no longer exists, is relegated to just parts of the country-- frankly, the Northeast. Elsewhere, votes were cast along racial lines. And as the election results turned out, my circle of America, consisting of those who benefit, or think to benefit, from a Romney presidency was not quite as large and encompassing as we had envisioned it to be. With the customability and subjectivity of news sources, credible and not, it became easy this election cycle to hear and see the news you wanted to hear. The danger, of course, is that the world view of members of each camp will devolve further from reality and objectivity. That is if there is nothing to ground a person in the reality of multiple ways of thinking about the world. And what about the young adults today? Between liberal-leaning and conservative-leaning youth how dissimilar are our growing-up experiences and our youth? And what does it take to reconcile these differences? *(