So who won?
We all know who won and lost the Presidency, but I thought I'd point out a few overlooked winners and losers from this year's election:
Winner: Our foreign policy
After years of a bellicentric foreign policy that has left us mired in neverending offenses and the subject of animosity and ridicule the world over, we will finally see an administration that puts the diplomatic back into our diplomacy.
Loser: Defense contractors
There’s a reason why contractors had so many lobbyists working for McCain. Lockheed Martin alone had eight. While Obama has no intention of dismantling our military, his priorities will mean reduced investments in new high-tech weapons systems and fewer contracts with private combat/security patrols. And unlike McCain, who voted against increased accountability for Defense contractors, Obama has a proposal to reform contracting so that our tax dollars are used more efficiently toward our national defense.
Winner: Internet media
This election illustrated the extent to which the internet has transformed our politics. Obama’s early momentum, and his mindblowing success at fundraising, were in large measure due to his ability to utilize and capitalize on the power of social networking. And voters found themselves more empowered than ever before: with instant access to breaking news combined with the ability to publicize lesser-known stories on their own blogs. The combination revolutionized political news, as voters are now able to hold the media accountable for their stories. Bruno Giussani suggested a couple of years ago that this would be the year of the “user-generated swift boating,” in which the voters themselves would create exaggerated claims about a candidate, send the rumors viral, and then take the candidate out of contention. But what we saw was actually the opposite. The availability of snopes and other fact checkers rendered most swift boating attempts obsolete, as users had immediate access to the facts regarding any claim.
Loser: Broadcast News
Television news continues to lose viewers to internet news sources -- internet news sources universally reported record traffic count on Tuesday. And cable news networks are cutting into broadcast network market share -- CNN had its largest audience ever on Tuesday, and more viewers watched the RNC convention on FoxNews than any other network. CBS in particular is struggling to find an audience: on Election Day its viewership lagged behind both of the other broadcast networks, and it trailed two cable networks as well.
Winner: Nate Silver, 538.com
The baseball statman turned political analyst made waves last spring with his critical commentaries on the pollsters and his uncannily accurate projections of the primaries. In just a few months, he went from an unknown startup to over a million unique users per day. That’s truly remarkable.
Loser: The pollsters
For decades polling has largely been a mystery to the voters and even to most analysts. The numbers show up but we have no idea how they’re being generated. Nate Silver has exposed the man behind the curtain -- revealing polling strategies and challenging pollsters to improve their work. And because of his work combining the polls to create more accurate projections, polls taken individually have begun to seem outdated and much less useful.
Winner: Mitt Romney
McCain’s loss and Palin’s spectacularly unsuccessful VP candidacy have left many Republicans wondering what might have been. Some suggest that Romney, with his financial credibility, would have been a stronger running mate for McCain. Some even argue that he would have been a more successful Presidential candidate. Republicans are thinking that there’s no way Obama will make two terms with the nation facing as many problems as it is, and Romney is looking like a legitimate contender for the 2012 presidential race.
Loser: The Church of Latter Day Saints (Mormons)
Nearly ½ of the contributions to the effort to ban gay marriage in California came from members of the Church. And many of these members don't even live in the state! By so heavily investing itself in politics (and highly controversial politics at that), the church has garnered quite a bit of negative publicity, and has made some enemies, too. In addition, the Church has managed to undermine Romney’s argument from earlier this year that his Church would remain independent from his politics.
Winner: Sarah Palin
In spite of all her miscues, missteps, misunderstandings, and misfortunes, Palin is still widely regarded as the rising star of her party. And she’s already admitted that she’s got plans for 2012. Until then, she should have plenty of time to write a tell-all book about how the liberal media and McCain’s handlers conspired to make her look like an incompetent ninny on the world stage. She should be able to make herself out to be quite the sympathetic character over the next four years, and have great momentum heading into the next election.
Loser: Mike Huckabee
Sarah Palin has effectively stolen Huck’s act. Until Sarah made her national debut, Huckabee was the likeable, charismatic figure carrying the banner of the religious right and the underappreciated lower-middle class. Well, Palin is all of that and cute, too. I think Huckabee may be out of luck.
This was a breakout year for women in Presidential politics. Hillary Clinton nearly won the Democratic nomination, and inspired millions of women and girls with her effort. Sarah Palin wowed America with her determination and refusal to back down, even in the face of scathing publicity. Way back in 1984, Geraldine Ferraro was the first woman on a presidential ticket. It was twenty-four years before we saw another one. But after the successes of Clinton and Palin this year, I have to think we won't wait near that long before we see a woman's name on a ticket again.
Though we saw two women in the Presidential race, this was, in many respects, a loss for women. During this election, we’ve seen that it’s okay to appoint a woman based on looks instead of qualifications; that it’s okay for the media to discuss a female candidate’s hair and clothes, or to refer to women with terms like “frigid” and “hot” and “graceful” and “shrill;” that a female candidate should have to answer questions about her parenting; that it’s okay for women to use their sexuality to get ahead or to distract from issues; that it's okay for a woman to use her kids as political capital. Let’s hope that the next time we have a woman in the presidential race, that not only is she treated with more respect, but that she proves herself worthy of our respect, as well.
Loser: The Republican Party
The Republican Party -- let’s just admit it -- got taken to the woodshed. The electoral vote was lost in a landslide. The party narrowly avoided losing enough Senate seats to create a Democratic supermajority. And the party is hemorrhaging support, with less than 40% of Americans self-identifying as registered or leaning Republican.
Winner: The GOP
Though we’ve lost, we yet may win. This outright rejection of the current incarnation of our party may be the impetus our leaders need to finally reorganize and redirect the increasingly out-of-touch Republican Party. And if we can create an improved party that is yet again a positive force in our country, that will be a win not just for Republicans, but for us all.