Sore Losers

11.08.12

Who’s Skewed Now? Beaten GOP Wakes Up to the Real America

Ultraconservatives were sure the polls were wrong—and the America they knew would reject Obama the socialist Muslim. But the election proves the Real America is something quite different, says Andrew Romano.

To all those ultraconservatives who were convinced that America would never reelect a “lazy” “Kenyan” “socialist” “fraud”:

America is not what you think it is.

I understand how you’re feeling right now. Betrayed. Bewildered. Indignant. You woke up on Election Day believing certain things. Scratch that. You didn’t believe. You knew. You knew that Barack Obama wasn’t who he said he was. Some of you “knew” he was Muslim; others “knew” he was born in Africa. A majority “knew” he was a socialist. Many of you even “knew” his deeper, darker secrets.

But whether you knew all of this stuff or just some of it, the thing you knew most of all was that Obama’s demise was at hand. The end of Obama was nigh. You knew, as GQ’s Reid Cherlin reported last summer, that Mitt Romney would deliver “not merely a 51–49 win but a run-the-table walloping that will send Obama into the history books as an undisputed calamity for America.” The country would not be fooled again. To you it was clear that “Obama was ‘crashing before our eyes,’” as New York’s Jonathan Chait wrote, “his administration ‘entering his pitiful phase,’ Americans turning against him in a ‘harbinger of doom.’ In an eerie replay of the Carter administration … the economy was dragging him down and, to make matters worse, he was ‘a very bad politician.’” All of this was self-evident. Obvious. You knew Obama would lose.

And when the polls suggested that Obama had a better chance of winning than Romney, you knew the polls were wrong. They were oversampling Democrats. They weren’t factoring in Romney’s advantage among independents. They were part of a vast left-wing media conspiracy to depress GOP turnout. To really know how America was going to vote on Election Day, you had to “unskew” the polls by reweighting each pollster’s sample to include more Republicans—and thus better reflect what you knew to be the true composition of America. Once unskewed, the polls reinforced what you knew all along: that Romney was destined for a landslide.

But then, on Tuesday night, the results came rolling in. Suddenly Obama had won every single swing state except North Carolina: Florida by 1 point; Ohio by 2; Virginia by 3; Colorado by 4; Iowa by 5; and New Hampshire by 6. Somehow he had clobbered Romney by 126 votes in the Electoral College and more than 2.5 million in the popular count. On Monday, you knew that America would never reelect the president. And then on Tuesday, America did.

So what happened? Logically, it could only be one of two things: either you misjudged Obama or you misjudged America. I know, at this point, that the first option is a nonstarter. For a true ultraconservative like yourself, the idea that you might be wrong about Obama—that the president is just a human politician you happen to disagree with, rather than, say, some sort of malevolent alien life form—is unthinkable. So that leaves the second option. You must have gotten America wrong somehow.

The so-called Real America—the America the ultraconservatives like to imagine we live in—is now a Minority America. That is quantifiable.

I know this is an uncomfortable notion. Honestly, I don’t expect you to agree. But here’s the thing: the election—the unskewed, unspinnable, undeniable accumulation of votes cast by your fellow Americans—is all the evidence you need. The election is proof that America is not what you knew it to be, at least not anymore. Your America never would have reelected the creator of Obamacare. It never would have reelected the man who announced our Afghanistan withdrawal date. Same goes for the guy who spent hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars to stimulate the economy and prop up the auto industry; who presided over a period of record unemployment and rising national debt; who came out in support of gay marriage.

But, again, America did just that. Could it be, then, that the America you knew—the America some of you have called the Real America—is not the Real America after all?

What if your Real America is an illusion? A big, glassy, Truman Show bubble? A blinkered fantasyland where everyone agrees with you, where everyone thinks like you, from Rush on the radio to Sean on Fox; from the columnists at WorldNetDaily to the chain letters in your inbox; from one corner of your homogeneously redrawn congressional district to the other? Our modern media culture is so potent, pervasive, and personalized, and our political landscape so segregated, that it is now possible for a person to go through life rarely, if ever, hearing an opposing point of view. You were so sure your America was the real America because you never encountered any evidence to the contrary—not on TV, not on the radio, not online, and not in your community.

The 2012 election should burst that bubble. Returns like Tuesday’s make it hard to keep on choosing your own reality. The numbers are the numbers. Americans voted for gay marriage in Maine, Maryland, and Minnesota. They voted for legal marijuana in Colorado and Washington. They voted for a lesbian in Wisconsin—the first openly gay senator in U.S. history. And they voted against evangelical Tea Partiers in the very winnable states of Indiana and Missouri.

But above all else, Americans voted for Barack Obama. Again. Not because they were duped by the hopey-changey rhetoric of a fresh-faced celebrity but because they believed, after four years of watching him in action, that he deserved a second term more than Romney deserved a first. As the NBC political team wrote Wednesday morning, 2012 was a ticking demographic time bomb that blew up in the GOP’s face: “Obama carried a whopping 93% of black voters (representing 13% of the electorate), 71% of Latinos (representing 10%), and also 73% of Asians (3%). What’s more, despite all the predictions that youth turnout would be down, voters 18–29 made up 19% of last night’s voting population—up from 18% four years ago—and President Obama took 60% from that group.” Sure, Romney won white voters. He won more white voters than Ronald Reagan in 1980. But it wasn’t enough.

The results of the 2012 election are not ambiguous. The so-called Real America—the America the ultraconservatives like to imagine we live in—is now a Minority America. That is quantifiable. Meanwhile, the America that achieved a majority on Tuesday is something bigger. More inclusive. More progressive. More modern. It is the real Real America, like it or not.

So now all of you ultraconservatives have a choice. You can continue to cocoon yourself off from reality and pretend, despite what happened Tuesday, that America ends at the edge of Fox News; that it reaches only as far as Rush’s radio signal. Or you can accept that America is a lot larger than that.

If you stick to the first path, you will suffer more losses like Tuesday’s.

I hope you don’t. I hope you finally free your party’s brightest minds—your Marco Rubios, your Mitch Danielses, your Jeb Bushes—to pursue policy solutions that are designed to pass and work in America as it is.

You don’t have to agree with Obama or pander to liberals. The country will be better off, actually, if you don’t. But the goal should be to convince the Real America that you’re right. To do that, you have to acknowledge that the Real America exists—and that you alone are not it.