From the Publisher: It’s finally over

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Arnold G. York

The presidential race is finally over, and it feels like a 900 pound weight has been lifted off my chest. I can finally breathe again. I waited a few weeks to make sure it really was over, and not just some false alarm. No more endless hours spent pouring over the poll results on RealClearPolitics.com and 538.com, filling myself with angst over every silly rumor. No more having to gingerly sidestep political conversations with misguided Republican friends. No more worrying that the Republicans seemed so assured of victory that I began to think I was missing something and they were seeing something I was not. And then it was over. 

Wednesday morning the sun rose, the stock market opened, the world went on, and the insane spell cast on America by the wicked witch was broken. Life simply returned to life and left the Republicans to lick their wounds and the Democrats to not-so-secretly gloat, in a rather unseemly fashion, and we all wondered what made us so nuts for so many months. 

The L.A. County Fire Department does an analysis after a major fire event that they call “lessons learned,” and I thought that probably was a pretty good technique to try and figure out what we all just went through. 

Lessons learned 

• In the heat of combat, most political analysts are full of baloney. They are nothing more than talking heads, full of sound and fury signifying nothing more than entertainment politics. 

•The polls do count, and most of the pollsters are pretty good at their jobs. Judging from the results, many of the pollsters were right on the nose, particularly in the battleground states. The big winners were Real Clear Politics, which prints an average of all of the polls, and was very close; but the absolutely biggest winner was Nate Silver, a mathematician who runs the 538.com poll for The New York Times and got it all right. All that baloney about the polls leaning left was just that, baloney. Although some on the right, like Fox, were also accurate. 

• Money is important, but in a presidential race, not quite as important as we thought it would be. Karl Rove raised $400 million from some very well off Americans, and other than I suspect enriching Karl personally to the extent of 10-15 percent of that total, probably $40- $60 million, it didn’t do much to enrich any of the Republican candidates. You can well understand why Rove, who I will concede is a very bright guy with a very good strategic sense, practically went ballistic when Fox called Ohio for Obama. It’s understandable because Karl was having a very bad night, and I can imagine his phone was ringing off the hook with some very upset billionaires, who are used to getting their way and didn’t that night. 

• The Citizen’s United decision by the Supreme Court, which essentially held that the right to spend money in politics was an exercise in free speech, had a few wrinkles that I believe a rather politically naïve court hadn’t anticipated in their landmark, rather retarded, decision. What they hadn’t thought about was there is a large group of really dumb billionaires in this country who want what they want, and there are legions of political consultants only too happy to help some of them get rid of large amounts of their excess cash. For example, Newt Gingrich would have been out of the race much earlier if he didn’t have Sheldon Adelson’s cash to keep him going. His presence forced Romney further and further to the right, which meant once Romney got the nomination, the Dems had a whole bunch of stuff to beat him over the head with, thanks to Adelson’s dollars. In politics, that’s called the law of unexpected consequences. 

• The old adage is that “all politics is local,” except now we know that’s not so in a presidential race. In a presidential race, the new adage is that “all local politics is national.” When the Virginia legislature decided that women required a vaginal probe conducted by the state as a condition precedent to an abortion, women all over the country, particularly single women, were outraged. That, plus some very dumb Senatorial candidates, created a very large gender gap for the Republicans. 

• This election proved that boots on the ground still count; that despite all the fancy technology, you still need legions of worker to get voters to the polls. It does help if you have some sophisticated technology to track everything in real time, but it’s now clear that Election Day is not the day to test the system. It’s kind of ironic, but not surprising, that the community organizers totally out-organized the big boys and beat the pants off the expensive consultants. 

• It was also refreshing and encouraging that Americans really do care, and were willing to stand in line for hours to cast their ballots. It’s time for Congress to act perhaps a national ID card, and to set the conditions for registration to vote, so we don’t have the situation of partisan Secretaries of State manipulating the registration process, poll hours or locations to favor one party or the other. 

• Lastly, it will be interesting to see what the Republicans have learned from this election. I heard some Republican pundits say the problem they had with the Hispanics was that the Republican message didn’t resonate with them. There was no problem with the Republican message; there was a major problem with the Republican policy. They want the Hispanic votes, they just don’t want the Hispanics. If you don’t like them, you don’t care about them and you don’t understand their desire to be Americans in good standing, why the hell would they want to vote for you? When that attitude changes, the Republicans will be a viable national party again. If they don’t change, their situation will worsen with each national election. It’s demographics, and that’s just arithmetic.