IDEMA: What we learned from Election Day 2012

Nov 21, 2012

The election taught us much about our culture and the state of our political debate. Here are a few things that struck me:

(1) The GOP has the same problem as mainline Protestant denominations — that they are primarily white, older, and in many cases do not have a message for young people, people of color and gay people. The proverbial demographic time bomb just exploded for the Republican Party. They got 60 percent of the white vote, especially among older Americans, but they are falling short with just about everyone else. The image of the GOP as being the party of angry white men certainly was reinforced by the rants on Election Day; and soon after by Lou Dobbs, Ted Nugent, Donald Trump, the talking heads on Fox and some of the outcries in the men's locker at the YMCA that I heard in the shower. If the GOP and the mainline denominations do not recruit young people and people of color to their ranks, this decline will continue.

(2) Actions speak louder than words. The last Republican president who balanced the budget was Eisenhower. So, Romney's promises fell on deaf ears, especially when America watched Gov. Christie and the president in action responding to Hurricane Sandy. People long for both parties to work together — and when they saw their hopes fulfilled on TV, that had great persuasive power.

(3) The War Between the States seems hardly over in our political life. The red state vs. blue state map hauntingly looks like 1860. Obviously, skin color has a role to play in this. When LBJ signed the civil rights legislation, he famously said that he had lost the South.  Nixon developed the "Southern strategy," which has been very successful. Now, the GOP has to figure out a way to reach out to people of color without losing their white base. They also need to reach out to women, especially single women, without angering Christian evangelicals. That will be fascinating to watch between now and 2016.

(4) Florida remains an electoral mess. You would think after 2000 that they would have it figured out. I found it amazing and inspiring that people waited six hours to vote in some places. Fortunately, shortening the days of early voting and the attempts to suppress the vote backfired.

(5) People on the right seemed less compassionate and respectful of all people. I am talking about some of the candidates and many of the TV pundits, as they, especially Rush Limbaugh, spewed venom about women and Hispanics and gay people in particular. Some of these people seemed mean, to put it simply. I also find that the comments online to my articles are often mean-spirited; but they usually, unwittingly, support the points I am making, so I welcome them! Anger can blind a person to the points an article makes. We will see with this article. Can't people be critical in a nice way? There is so much anger and resentment in our society that this is probably too much to ask.

(6) Both parties ran vague campaigns, lacking specifics about such issues as climate change, how to revise the tax code and the morality of drone attacks. Specifics about how to avoid the fiscal cliff were sadly lacking. Neither the president nor Mitt Romney were what I would call profiles in courage in their positions on the moral issues of the day.

(7) The millions spent on TV ads by both parties were largely a waste of money and would have been better spent elsewhere, like hurricane relief. The billionaires are having buyer's remorse today. Maybe we will be spared in 2016.

To sum up, we are now a diverse culture. Seventeen percent of people no longer identify themselves as church members, and each political party can claim no more than 30 percent or so of the population. If the mainline denominations cannot attract young people and people of color, they will keep on shrinking. If the GOP cannot also broaden its base, it will keep on losing presidential elections.

I am linking religion and politics in this article because their problems are the same —lack of a message for many people, and lack of diversity — while both parties, especially the GOP, look to churches for support.

The talking heads are already speculating about 2016, so I will add my two cents. I predict it will be Hillary Clinton vs. Paul Ryan.

— By the Rev. Henry Idema, Tribune religion columnist

Comments

Vladtheimp

The political pastor, pundit of profundity, strikes again, informing us yokels of what the election of 2012 really meant. I could argue that he missed some important points, like Obama won with barely 50% of the vote and with some 9 million fewer voters than he mesmerized in 2008; that the Republicans maintained solid control of the House on the basis of their support for fiscal sanity and lowered spending; that Republicans gained solid control over governorships and state legislatures; but I think these points would be wasted on Pastor Pundit, who has his facts neatly arranged to suit his political views.

Apparently Pastor Pundit believes online comments that disagree with his views are the product of “mean-spirited” and “angry” readers; he calls for people to be critical in a “nice way” but thinks that is asking too much of his critics. This from a man who, in the same paragraph, notes people he disagrees with “spew venom” against women, hispanics, and gays – my bet is that Pastor Pundit has never listened to Rush Limbaugh. Undoubtedly he has listened to Rachael Maddcow, Chrissy Matthews, Ed Sergeant Schultz, and of course, that purveyor of good taste, Bill Maher as they denigrate conservative women, white men, and anyone who disagrees with them in the most scatological terms – I imagine he believes them enlightened and funny. So, Pastor Pundit, call me angry, call me mean-spirited, but the tone of my comments is much nicer than you will hear from the above group plus Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid. And since you bring up LBJ famously saying when he signed the Civil Rights Legislation (which would not have passed but for Republicans) that he had lost the South, at least as famously he is reported as saying “I’ll have those ni**ers voting Democratic for the next 200 years.” (—Lyndon B. Johnson to two governors on Air Force One - ; Ronald Kessler “Inside the White House” (New York, Simon & Schuster, Inc. 1996).

Pastor Pundit impresses us with his acumen of all things historical, claiming that “The red state vs. blue state map hauntingly looks like 1860.” Really? In 1860, California, Oregon, Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New York, and other “Blue States” voted Republican, and the solid South, the slave holding states, voted democrat. http://presidentelect.org/e1860.... http://presidentelect.org/images... That's how successful Pastor Pundit and his friends have been in re-writing history to erase the fact that the South and the Ku Klux Klan were the products of democrats! Also, look at the breakdown by county – democrats generally only win by sweeping the urban areas, especially on the two left coasts, along with Chicago and immigrant areas in the southwest. This is nothing like 1860. http://www.outsidethebeltway.com...

I happen to agree with Pastor Pundit's claim that we are a nation seriously divided, but he is wrong that the division is between black and white, men and women, straight and gay – that is just repeating the divide and conquer strategy of the democrats. The division is between the Haves and those who want what the Haves have without working for it; between those who want government to be their parent, their husband, the dictator of who they can marry, and the great provider of all things and those that simply want to be left alone by government; the division is between the taxpayers and the tax eaters; between those who want to be independent and free, and those who are willing to subjugate themselves to the manna provided by socialists in office. How can I say this? Easy. If people really wanted jobs and the opportunity for employment, a decent standard of living, a respectable future for future generations, and freedom and liberty, they would not have given another 4 years to a man who has destroyed billions of private wealth, who has promoted policies that kill jobs, who campaigned on a mixture of lies and class warfare, who has mortgaged the future of their children and grandchildren, and who bought votes with promises of more free stuff for his victim constituencies.

Finally, Pastor Pundit prognosticates that the candidates in 2016 will be Hillary Clinton and Paul Ryan. I hope he's right – Hillary Clinton has done nothing to qualify herself for president of the United States (like Barack Obama), except that he at least didn't have to make a name for himself by marrying an alpha male. She launched her career on the basis that she is a female victim of a serial philanderer, singing Stand By Your Man on national TV. That's all there is folks, there's no “there” there. Let the anguished cries of the feminists and professional victims commence!

By 2016, voters should know the drastic consequences of voting for economic illiterates who push an unsustainable Greece style socialism and a one size fits all Obamacare on an unsuspecting populace.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! Of the many things to be thankful for in America, one is that we still have somewhat of a right to express our thoughts (except for hanging chairs) and to criticize our enlightened rulers and their sycophants. All bets are off if Harry Reid and the Senate succeed in letting big government access your private e-mails without a warrant.

GH55

Truly an angry white man! I seem to recall that the the economic crash came in 2008, as a result of greed and speculation on Wall Street and real estate, well before President Obama was a candidate, let alone the President.
If you don't like living in an organized society, leave it!
Your characterization that Republicans are hard working, independant, God fearing souls, and Democrats are lazy, sinful, leaches is offensive and completely incorrect. Saying that Democrats are dictators trying to tell you who to marry, is just plain ridiculous, its the other way around. Rev. Idema called it correctly when he stated the vitriol would continue.
I was put out of a job as a result of the crash, I worked my ass off for 18 months before the auto industry and economy came back enough to start hiring again. I truly believe that if that industry and others was not supported by our government I would still be out of a job. I made great efforts to get away from the auto industry, but in West Michigan that is the employer of choice for a good standard of living.
You have a good Thanksgiving but don't be thankful for roads and safe food, and water systems, and safe airline travel, as that kind of stuff comes from gubmint!

LessThanAmused

Awww, Cmon GH55, don't feed the trolls and maybe they'll go away. It's not like you're going to be able to convince him you're not the enemy....He's gotta have someone to hate and blame his unhappiness on and obviously introspection isn't an option. Happy Thanksgiving for what it's worth.

43°North

or maybe your comments will just disappear...

migpilot

I could post but Vlad nailed it perfectly. One thing though, how does safe airline travel come from the government. The government could never run a business as complicated as an airline, much less a medical healthcare system. Could you imagine the line of people waiting to buy tickets on government airlines. Yeah right.

43°North

Your ignorance is showing. No one said they run the airlines. Gubmint runs the airlines security, no? How the heck would that make safe airways, right? And you call yourself a pilot...

migpilot

I could post but Vlad nailed it perfectly. One thing though, how does safe airline travel come from the government. The government could never run a business as complicated as an airline, much less a medical healthcare system. Could you imagine the line of people waiting to buy tickets on government airlines. Yeah right.

GH55

Perhaps you have forgotten about the security that is provided for the airline industry and the air traffic control? No, the government doesn't run anything anywhere near as complicated as the airlines, oh, wait, one example may be the military, of which only a small part is concerned with flying planes.
Vlad says: "The division is between the Haves and those who want what the Haves have without working for it; between those who want government to be their parent, their husband, the dictator of who they can marry, and the great provider of all things and those that simply want to be left alone by government; the division is between the taxpayers and the tax eaters; between those who want to be independent and free, and those who are willing to subjugate themselves to the manna provided by socialists in office."
First, those that "get" are the states that voted Republican, overwhelmingly! http://www.addictinginfo.org/201...
Please take a look at the chart titled "Red State Socialism".
"Dictator of who they can marry"? It seems to me that the Democrats would allow anyone to marry, as opposed to only a man and a woman! If marriage is a civil contract, what does religion have to do with it? Separate church and state, like the constitution says!
It would seem that "Vlad the Impaler" really has it all backwards!

snlfan

It would seem that "Vlad the Impaler" really has it all backwards!

Thanks for that I was thinking it was "Vlad the Impotent" every time I saw his name

migpilot

Military does not have to make a profit while providing a transport infrastructure vitally important to the US. The waste in the military is monumental trust me. You tsa fans wake up, they are burning your tax dollars at a faster rate then criminals are being born. Get a life and get off the boards, quit making a profession of making your obscure opinions heard in some kind of eloquence competition. We all know your sitting in the dark eating yesterday's takeout pizza.

GH55

I love pizza for breakfast! I did not imply that they were there to make a profit! As far as I am concerned, one penny spent on military is a waste. If there wasn't insatiable greed, and the need to inflict ones religion on those that choose to believe otherwise, perhaps we could reduce that waste. I am not sure what "boards" I need to get off of, but my obscure opinions seem to be those of the majority in this nation right now. Obviously, not in West Michigan though! It would seem that the isolation and the insular way of thinking in this area, results in a rather self centered population base. We all should look outward as we look forward, not inward and backwards!

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