President Barack Obama’s 2012 election marks the culmination of a decades-long project to build an electorally viable and ideologically coherent progressive coalition in national politics.
With President Barack Obama’s decisive victory in the 2012 election, he becomes the first Democrat since Franklin Delano Roosevelt—and the only president since Ronald Reagan—to win two consecutive elections with more than 50 percent of the popular vote. Although the election was closely contested, President Obama successfully solidified his historic progressive coalition from 2008 and held on to all of the states he won that year with the exception of conservative-leaning Indiana and North Carolina. And after the electoral disaster of that Democrats suffered in 2010 at the congressional level, the party expanded its majority in the Senate with significant wins in Massachusetts, Virginia, Missouri, Wisconsin, and even Indiana.
Why did this happen? A potent mix of demographics, a steadily improving economy, a clear rejection of the GOP’s extreme conservatism, and an embrace of pragmatic progressive policies on social and economic issues propelled the president and his party to victory. The president’s central message that “everyone gets a fair shot, everyone does their fair share, and everybody plays by the same rules” was more convincing to Americans dealing with rising inequality and diminished economic opportunities than the conservative alternative of supply-side tax cuts, deregulation, and limited government. His policy choices—from the stimulus bill and auto and financial sector bailouts to the health care law and support for expanded rights for women, Latinos, and gay and lesbian families—clearly paid off politically as the nation decided to give the president more time to lay a new foundation for our economy, society and government.
With his clear Electoral College and national popular vote majorities, President Obama has arguably created a genuine realignment at the national level that could continue to shape American politics for years to come. Obama’s strong progressive majority—built on a multi-racial, multi-ethnic, cross-class coalition in support of an activist government that promotes freedom, opportunity, and security for all—is real and growing and it reflects the face and beliefs of the United States in the early part of the 21st Century. The GOP must face the stark reality that its voter base is declining and its ideology is too rigid to represent the changing face of today’s country.
The remainder of this memo will provide a concise overview of the demographic breakdown of the election based on exit poll and election data available today. Updates will be made as more data are finalized.