The great lesson from 2012 is that America is no longer an evenly divided country.
Democrats and Republicans threw everything they had at the election for the presidency. Both sides spent in excess of $1 billion on campaigns that — in the first presidential race since the Supreme Court’s mad Citizens United ruling — saw the lines between candidates, parties, political action committees and “dark money” charities blur into a mangle of unprecedented excess. Both parties nominated credible contenders for the presidency and the vice presidency. Their platforms staked out distinct positions not just on “social issues” such as reproductive rights and marriage equality but also on core questions of economics and the role of government: issues of debt and deficits and the maintenance of Social Security and Medicaid. The debates were intense, and consequential.
The 2012 choice was as clear as the country has experienced in generations. And the results were equally clear.
While the folks who live on the fantasy island that is Fox News continue to suggest that the election was “pretty close to a tie,” the results were decisive, and potentially definitive.
Obama won every battleground state except one (North Carolina) and even carried a major state presumed to be out of reach (Florida). That gave him an Electoral College landslide of 332 votes to 206 for Republican Mitt Romney. Obama carried states in every major region of the country, he carried the most urban states (New Jersey, Nevada and Massachusetts) as well as the most rural states (Vermont and Maine), and he swept ethnic and racial demographic groups, as well as women, young people and the LGBT community.
Obama won the popular vote by almost 5 million — or 51 percent to Romney’s 47 percent.
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Obama actually secured a higher percentage of the popular vote than Harry Truman in 1948 or John Kennedy in 1960 or Richard Nixon in 1968 or Jimmy Carter in 1976 or Ronald Reagan in 1980 or Bill Clinton in 1992 and 1996 or George W. Bush in 2004.
And it was not merely a personal victory for Obama. Though Senate seats up for election heavily favored Republicans, Democrats picked up two seats for an expanded majority of 55-45.
In the overall vote for House races, voters favored Democrats by 1,174,887 votes. Only gerrymandering abuses, big spending by Karl Rove, and the fact that Democratic votes tend to be concentrated in urban and majority-minority districts allowed the House to remain in Republican hands. But no one should miss the fact that Americans preferred a Democratic House by a million-plus vote margin.
Voters also gave seven of 11 gubernatorial races to the Democrats, who won new majorities in eight state legislative chambers and picked up hundreds of legislative seats nationwide.
The numbers tell a story: The November election results did not reveal a divided nation. They revealed a nation that prefers Democrats in the White House, in charge of the Congress and in charge of statehouses. That’s a reality that Republicans like House Speaker John Boehner are wrestling with. But it is the political reality of 2012.