The surprisingly comfortable victory of President Obama over his Republican challenger, Mitt Romney, has predictably led to oceans of ink being spilled trying to explain why almost all of the polls were wrong in predicting an extremely close election. After sifting through the statistics and the analyses, however, it appears to me that the following three factors were of the greatest significance:
1. An historically low percentage of the electorate chose to vote at all, actually less than fifty percent. President Obama actually got fewer votes this year than Senator McCain got running against him in 2008! Obviously, a large portion of the American people are disillusioned with the whole political/economic system as well as the choice they were faced with. Traditionally, when turnout is low the democrats do better than the republicans because their electoral machinery is quite simply more effective.
2. The republicans totally failed to connect with the Hispanic vote, which is increasingly important and growing rapidly. Anti-immigration sentiment expressed by republican candidates caused about 70% of the Hispanics to vote for Obama, his largest ethnically-based support with the exception of blacks. Even the Florida Cuban-Americans, traditionally strongly republican, provided a six-percent lower margin than usual for Romney.. If the Cuban voters in Florida had given the republican candidate their usual percentage of support,, he would have taken Florida.
3. Finally, about thirty percent of the American people are now fully or partially dependent on government transfer payments, and many of those people were worried that a republican administration would reduce or eliminate their benefits. This is a new factor in American politics and is unlikely to be reversed any time soon. The traditional democratic base in the union and big city liberal vote has now been supplemented by an increasing lock on the Hispanic and "dependent" vote.
What this all means is that in the first place the electorate is bitterly divided and extremely alienated, which bodes ill for the political future. And these negative sentiments will certainly be emphasized by the first scandal of the new Obama term, which hasn't even started yet--the resignation of General David Petraeus as Director of the Central Intelligence Agency. The rumor-mills are working overtime and the conspiracy theorists are hard at work. Indeed, they have much to work on. The circumstantial evidence that the resignation was politically timed is quite overwhelming and the suspicion that he was being silenced about the 9/11 Benghazi massacre very strong What does it all mean for the Middle East and Israel? More of the same. Obama hasn't changed and his policies are unlikely to change, especially now that he sees himself vindicated. Israel will have to become ever-more reliant on itself, and that is by no means a bad thing.
Norman A. Bailey, Ph.D., is Adjunct Professor of Economic Statecraft at The Institute of World Politics, Washington, DC, and a lecturer at The Israeli National Defense College (MABAL), 2011-2012 session.
Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on November 15, 2012
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