I called this election a few weeks ago after Romney’s disastrous “binders of women” comment and his unconvincing performance talking to female voters.
Already, the viability of Romney’s campaign had been dubious.
He was solidly backed by white males but all the rest of the electorate was arrayed against him.
His only chance of success was challenging Obama’s dominance of the female vote.
Romney’s dominant demeanor, height, chiseled movie star looks, dignified salt and pepper hair gave him considerable appeal to women, but his presence and personality couldn’t prevent women from voting for an incumbent who seemed more likely to assure them access to power and material resources.
But who won or who lost is not what’s most important.
Nation states are fast losing legitimacy in an age of mass communications. Presidents, prime ministers, and premieres no longer run the world like they did at the end of WWII. At best, we can expect the leader of a nation to execute a bold holding action, preventing the state from disintegrating any further.
The two big lessons of this election lie not in the candidates or parties but in the demographics of the vote itself.
This election is a landmark event because it has starkly revealed emerging divides in American society and set the tone for a new era of identity politics.
In this 2012 election,
1) Men were pitted against women in direct combat, both groups voting as blocks.
Whites were pitted against ethnic minorities, both voting against each other in blocks.
Whites no longer dominate politics by default.
White men find themselves outnumbered by a coalition of women and minorities in a struggle for control of the state.
On paper, the economy is stagnant, but in reality, society’s wealth continues to become increasingly hoarded by a noble caste.
The traditional job, society’s favorite means of distributing wealth to most people, has become unstable and sporadic at best. As an institution it is becoming obsolete.
It’s easy to have a plural, inclusive secular society when there’s plenty of wealth to go around.
But if wealth is scarce and growing scarcer, people predictably splinter into factions, each looking for a bigger slice of a meager pie.
With the 2012 election, we see the effects of years of scarcity manifesting in politics.
As more people become desperate, we will see more factional voting blocks locked in bitter competition for power and resources. We might expect the rise of modern day political machines dedicated not to the promotion of policy preferences or idealism, but to “identities” we were born with.
2) A major tipping point: Americans of the Boomer generations and older are no longer able to carry elections on their own.
Politics as we’ve known them for the last few decades have just ended. Because of their massive numbers and high rates of civic participation, the older generations have stubbornly held on to a dominant role, but their ability to shape the nation’s destiny is inevitably waning.
In these times of economic depression and social turmoil, it is the wealthy, powerful, skilled boomers who are still holding this society together.
As they increasingly retire from their jobs, succumb to illness and old age, and decline in political influence, the old order will begin to pass along with them.
Eric and I conjecture that there will be a critical tipping point by 2015 or 2016 as volume of retired/sick/dying baby boomers reaches critical mass and the 1990s and 1980s begin to seem as quaint and culturally dated as the roaring 20s or the prosperous 1950s.
For until societies worldwide drastically rethink the nature of wealth and economies in an age of massively automated manufacturing and advanced computers, countless millions will live in squalor in the midst of plenty. Formerly normal households shown in Hollywood movies will come to seem like something out of a dream.
A peaceful and open society will come to sound like something out of an impossibly naive fairytale as we begin to experience earthquakes along widening social fault lines.