Why were so many so surprised that President Obama easily won re-election?
The answer is that very few saw what is so obvious: America’s electorate has a fast-growing Latino population that now numbers 50 million. Women voters — of all ages — are engaged. We have a growing and energetic contingent of young people.
Former President Ronald Reagan once said Latino voters are all Republicans, but they simply don’t know it yet. But, as with many things Reagan, his comments are an oversimplification of a large segment of America. It’s true that Latinos are family oriented, hard working and church going — attributes that Republicans believe are their core values.
But Latinos are also savvy. They knew Romney was not joking when he said that he’d have a better chance of being elected if his parents had been Mexicans.
They knew that it was a slam at Latinos on many levels. Latinos did not laugh when Romney urged them to “self-deport” if they could not find jobs in America. It should be no surprise that fewer Latinos voted for Romney than fellow Republicans John McCain and George W. Bush.
Women, too, played a dramatic role. I know several who worked for the first time on the Obama campaign and they did it because they liked Obama’s view on women’s issues and admired his love for his wife and two daughters.
They were outraged, as well, by the references to “legitimate” rape by Republican senatorial candidates. As Karen Hughes, who was a key adviser to former President Bush, said: “If another Republican man says anything about rape other than it is a horrific, violent crime, I want to personally cut out his tongue.”
Finally, young people made a huge difference. They hosed down wedge issues, such as gay marriage, that have been used by Republicans to draw ire from voters.
To many American young people, homosexuality is no different from having red hair or blue eyes. And the young voted. They composed about 20 per cent of the electorate in 2012, which is an increase of one per cent over 2008. Sixty per cent of them voted for President Obama.
Black voters continued their overwhelming support for the President. When polled, they say that Republicans have consistently berated Obama from Day 1. Particularly upsetting was Romney’s reference to Obama as the welfare president.
Perhaps the key was Obama’s ability to get in touch with his supporters and make sure that they voted. His campaign has been working overtime since 2008, and may be the greatest political machine ever built in America.
While it’s hard to see this from afar, the voters who supported Romney and George W. Bush are becoming fewer in America. Yet, they continue to gain the biggest headlines because they sometimes confirm the country’s worst stereotypes.
But there is a new majority that will define the next century. And they represent the true and quintessential American story — strength from a constantly changing and diverse population.