On Tuesday November 6, Barack Obama won a close Presidential race against Republican candidate Mitt Romney to return to office for a second term, or as Obama said himself in a tweet that has become the most re-tweeted tweet of all time, he will return for “Four more years.”
People haven’t been shy about the importance of Obama’s victory. An <a href="http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/nov/07/us-elections-barack-obama-editorial" onclick="__gaTracker('send', 'event', 'outbound-article', 'http://www.guardian.co generic lipitor.uk/commentisfree/2012/nov/07/us-elections-barack-obama-editorial’, ‘Editorial piece’);”>Editorial piece at The Guardian provided this reflection:
His victory wasn’t big. It wasn’t pretty. It didn’t break the mould. It certainly wasn’t inspirational in the way that his win in 2008 was. In places it was wafer-thin. But it was a US presidential win all the same. And the win in 2012 matters just as much as the earlier win did in 2008. In difficult times, it is even, arguably, a greater political achievement. Mr Obama’s win is good for Americans, good for America, and good for the world.
However, despite the optimism and belief that “Barack Obama Will Be a Better Progressive in His Second Term,” the good that Obama can implement in the next four years is still uncertain.
As Howard Kurtz at The Daily Beast notes:
[O]pposition to Obama is a well-developed reflex for many Republicans who have demonized him, and a mere reelection victory may not soften their views. “His election in 2012 was less decisive, and I think he comes back to the table with even less influence than he had when he was elected in 2008,” (Terry) Holt says. “His first election was about hope and change and being part of the solution. This campaign was about division, us-versus-them, and that tends to weaken one’s hand, not strengthen it.”
Similarly, here is Peter Baker at The NY Times:
More seasoned and scarred, less prone to grandiosity and perhaps even less idealistic, Mr. Obama returns for a second term with a Congress still at least partly controlled by an opposition party that will claim a mandate of its own. He will have to choose between conciliation and confrontation, or find a way to toggle back and forth between the two.
And Andre Mayer at CBC:
Robert Asselin, assistant director of the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs at the University of Ottawa. “At least half of the people think ‘liberal’ is a bad word and that means big government, and big government in the States, even by many Democrats, is seen as a bad thing.”
However, despite the political entrenchment that Obama will continue to face in his second term, his victory in this election is a clear signal that the U.S. political landscape is changing – or has already changed.
Gil Troy, in conversation with Andre Mayer at CBC, observes:
“America’s changing. I’m calling it ‘Obamerica,’” says Gil Troy, a history professor at McGill University in Montreal and author of Leading from the Centre: Why Moderates Make the Best Presidents. “It’s a different place. It’s much more multicultural, much more diverse, a much more open, tolerant place. It’s also a place that doesn’t quite know where its soul is at.”
Ross Douthat at the New York Times describes this change as a realignment:
When you do it once, it’s just a victory. When you do it twice, it’s a realignment. The coalition that Barack Obama put together to win the presidency handily in 2008 looked a lot like the emerging Democratic majority that optimistic liberals had been discerning on the political horizon since the 1990s. It was the late George McGovern’s losing coalition from 1972 finally come of age: Young voters, the unmarried, African-Americans, Hispanics, the liberal professional class – and then more than enough of the party’s old blue collar base to hold the Rust Belt for the Democrats.
John Heilemann at New York Magazine breaks down how some of this played out in this election:
The reality that won last night was the reality of the emerging new American electorate, which is self-evidently changing our politics profoundly and will remake them fundamentally in decades to come … Nationally, the share of the vote comprised by whites fell from 74 to 72 percent, while the black vote held steady at 13 and rose among Hispanics from 9 to 10, among Asians from 2.5 to 3 percent, among women from 53 to 54 percent, and among young voters from 18 to 19 percent. Obama’s share of each of those blocs was overwhelming: 93 percent of African-Americans, 71 percent of Latinos, 73 percent of Asians, 55 percent of the ladies, and 60 percent of the kids. Together with a decent performance with white voters overall — 42 percent, four points lower than what he garnered in 2008 — those margins were what allowed him to win the popular vote as well as in the electoral college, thus averting a split decision that his team was worried would be messy and controversial.
The implications of this realignment will be an interesting discussion point moving forward. Robert P. Jones in conversation with Dan Gilgoff at CNN is not shy about some of the implications, specifically with regards to same-sex marriage:
“The historic nature of these results are hard to overstate,” Jones said. “Given the strong support of younger Americans for same-sex marriage, it is unlikely this issue will reappear as a major national wedge issue.”
Ultimately, we will just have to wait and see how this all plays out. But for Christians, regardless of whether you are American or not, I think it is important to remember how Russell Moore answered the question “How Should Christians Respond to Obama’s Re-Election?” at The Christian Post:
“Christians, above all people, should pray for and show respect for our President and all of our elected officials. After all, unlike those who see politics as ultimate, we recognize that our political structures are important, but temporal, before an inbreaking kingdom of Christ.”