As I sink deeper into depression from the results of this election, I'm obliged to provide some good news from the Great State of Illinois, the Land of Lincoln. First, as everyone knows, Obama won in an historic landslide over Keyes, 70%-27%. What's most remarkable about this victory is that Obama won almost every single county in the state, and won 2-1 in DuPage County, the state's Republican base. This means that political scientists will have plenty of questions to answer about the difference between Obama's victory compared to Harold Washington's 1983 Mayoral victory: why did whites overwhelmingly vote for Obama? What does this mean for the future of statewide African-American candidates nationwide? In addition, Obama also walks into the Senate with many IOU's from campaigns he helped contribute to including from Ken Salazer in CO, and Melissa Bean of IL (see below). Of course, we'll see Obama move more and more to the right (think DLC) to put himself in the position for a Presidential bid someday (though he'll have to fight Gov. Rod B.).
Another bit of good news is that the longest-serving Republican in the House, Phil Crane, was soundly defeated by newcomer and moderate Democrat Melissa Bean.
* For all the hype around the 527s (which I helped contribute to), the Republican's internal organization and GOTV machine won the day (with the help of that old time-tested strategy of voter intimidation). In other words, for the first time in modern American politics, Republicans won the ground game over the Democrats. This is especially striking considering the record-levels of turnout (Chicago was 77%).
* Election Shenanigans: I know, I know, Bush has won. But is nobody troubled by the accounts of attempted voter intimidation and suppression across the country AND by electronic voting machines with NO PAPER TRAIL, provided by a major Bush contributor who promised to "deliver the election" to the President? Just asking.
* Ideology and Issues: while many pundits, particularly liberals and the left, will begin the blame game leading to another period of internal turmoil within the Democratic Party, I think the striking and sobering issue we must come to grips with is the simple fact that at least half, if not the majority, of Americans strongly believe in the repressive and oppressive Republican vision. But this always been the case. Abolitionists, suffragists, civil rights supporters, feminists, labor leaders, and gay rights advocates have never had popular support for their visions. Did Democrats lose because they had no vision? Maybe. But God, Guns, Gays and "Terrorism" seem to continue to win over "pocketbook" issues over and over again. And liberals and progressives can either stick with the blind faith that people will one day see their "true economic interests", or they can figure out some other strategy. Maybe we should just stop the chatter about people voting on economic issues and focus on explaining how and why social issues have more resonance. I contend that both parties had a vision and had their issues, but Republicans just had a better ground game at the end of the day.
* Gay Marriage: 11 out of 11 states approved amendments to ban gay marriage. Aside from my personal disgust (though can't say I'm surprised by the result), where I think this is most significant is in Ohio, where the presence on the ballot of the amendment may have also decided the presidential race. Republicans' strategy to place these propositions on the ballots to boost turnout of Christian conservatives seems to have worked in the one state where it made the difference.
* Exit Polls: Aside from the fact that they were wrong and have major problems, a couple of interesting observations. Ending a decade-long increase, union households as a percentage of the electorate declined from 26% in 2000 to 24% in 2004. Kerry received 60% versus Gore's 59%, while Bush increased this vote from 37% to 39%. For all the millions of dollars and historic effort the labor movement put into this election, they have some very tough questions to ask. On the other hand, despite the hype the last two weeks, African Americans remained the most solid Democratic (and anti-Bush) voting bloc in the electorate (89% Kerry vs. 11% Bush, a gain of +2 for Bush), though Bush gained very slightly. Bush gained among Latinos (42% Bush vs. 55% Kerry, +7 Bush), Jews (76% Kerry, 24% Bush, +5 Bush), and lost ground (surprise, surprise) among Gays and Lesbians (77% Kerry, 23% Bush, -2 Bush). The bottom line: African Americans still remain "The Miner's Canary" warning us all about inequality and injustice in America.
* Finally, we should also see this election as the result of a 30+ year movement and infrastructure-building among conservatives ranging from the Religious Right, to think tanks, talk radio, neo-cons, and the restructuring of the Republican Party since 2000 (Terry McAuliffe should be fired immediately by the way: he's lost 2 presidential elections and lost ground in the Senate and House.) By the way, I do agree with Dan Drezner's observation that Thomas Frank will be in huge demand.
I now tend to believe, as Jeff Cowie and Paul Frymer have both argued, that progressive politics and social policy (Reconstruction, New Deal, Civil Rights & Great Society) are mere blips over the long stretch of a fundamentally right-wing, christian, all around unjust American political and economic history. The only hope is that we learn the lessons from the elections of 2004...and 1964.