By Bill Fletcher & Carl Davidson
Progressive America Rising via Alternet.org
Nov 13, 2012 - The 2012 elections may prove to have been a watershed in several different respects. Despite the efforts by the political Right to suppress the Democratic electorate, something very strange happened: voters, angered by the attacks on their rights, turned out in even greater force in favor of Democratic candidates. The deeper phenomenon is that the changing demographics of the USA also became more evident—45% of Obama voters were people of color, and young voters turned out in large numbers in key counties.
Unfortunately for the political Left, these events unfolded with the Left having limited visibility and a limited impact—except indirectly through certain mass organizations—on the outcome.
On one level it is easy to understand why many Republicans found it difficult to believe that Mitt Romney did not win the election. First, the US remains in the grip of an economic crisis with an official unemployment rate of 7.9%. In some communities, the unemployment is closer to 20%. While the Obama administration had taken certain steps to address the economic crisis, the steps have been insufficient in light of the global nature of the crisis. The steps were also limited by the political orientation of the Obama administration, i.e., corporate liberal, and the general support by many in the administration for neo-liberal economics.
The second factor that made the election a ‘nail biter’ was the amount of money poured into this contest. Approximately $6 billion was spent in the entire election. In the Presidential race it was more than $2 billion raised and spent, but this does not include independent expenditures. In either case, this was the first post-Citizen United Presidential campaign, meaning that money was flowing into this election like a flood after a dam bursts. Republican so-called Super Political Action Committees (Super PACs) went all out to defeat President Obama.
Third, the Republicans engaged in a process of what came to be known as “voter suppression” activity. Particularly in the aftermath of the 2010 midterm elections, the Republicans created a false crisis of alleged voter fraud as a justification for various draconian steps aimed at allegedly cleansing the election process of illegitimate voters. Despite the fact that the Republicans could not substantiate their claims that voter fraud was a problem on any scale, let alone a significant problem, they were able to build up a clamor for restrictive changes in the process, thereby permitting the introduction of various laws to make it more difficult for voters to cast their ballots. This included photographic voter identification, more difficult processes for voter registration, and the shortening of early voting. Though many of these steps were overturned through the intervention of courts, they were aimed at causing a chilling impact on the voters, specifically, the Democratic electorate.Read more!