The vote count in national elections is never finished on election night. It takes days, sometimes weeks, to count all the ballots in fifty states, 3,077 counties and tens of thousands of local jurisdictions. So if Americans want to know the real results, they must wait a few days and add up all the numbers in order to get a clear picture.
That clarity is based on something we call “math.”
Former Republican National Committee chairman Haley Barbour said on the morning after the election that it was “pretty close to a tie.” Barbour was echoing conventional wisdom going into the election: that it would be very close, that President Obama might win an Electoral College majority but lose the popular vote, that the United States was a closely divided nation that would send no clear signal.
Now we know that Barbour was wrong.
It was not “pretty close to a tie.”
By Friday morning, Barack Obama had a vote total well in excess of 62 million, as compared with Mitt Romney’s 58.8 million. The president’s popular-vote margin is now in excess of 3 million.
Obama has now won Florida with a margin of 75,000 votes. That’s more than 100 times the alleged margin of victory for George Bush in 2000 in that state. And, with Florida, Obama has 332 electoral votes, as compared with 206 for Romney.
When all is said and done:
1. Barack Obama has won an overwhelming majority in the Electoral College, a daunting majority of the popular vote and a majority of the nation’s states—including most of the country’s largest states and states in every major region of the republic: New England, the mid-Atlantic, the Great Lakes, the South, the Southwest, the Mountain West and the West.
2. Barack Obama has won more popular votes than any Democratic candidate for president in history—except Barack Obama in 2008.
3. Barack Obama is the first Democratic president to win more than 50 percent of the popular vote in a re-election run since Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1944.
4. Barack Obama is the only Democratic candidate for president since FDR to twice win more than 50 percent of the national vote.
5. Barack Obama has, in both of his presidential runs, won a higher percentage of the national vote than any Democratic nominee since Lyndon Johnson in his 1964 landslide victory.
Add it all up and Obama has a mandate from this year’s presidential election that is significantly greater than those afforded John Kennedy in 1960, Richard Nixon in 1968, Jimmy Carter in 1976 or George W. Bush in 2000 or 2004.
But wait, there’s more: It appears that Obama had coattails or, at the very least, led a ticket that ran remarkably well in congressional, state and local races. To wit:
1. In a year when Democrats were in the worst position in decades to make gains in their Senate majority. They came into the 2012 race with the seats of twenty-one Democrats, plus two independents who caucus with the Democrats, up for election, while the Republicans had only ten seats up for election. Every early calculation had the Democrats losing seats, but they gained two Republican seats (Massachusetts and Indiana), held the seats of targeted incumbents (Florida, Montana and Ohio), picked up open seats that were once presumed to be unwinnable (North Dakota, Wisconsin) and came close in states such as Arizona and Nevada. Of thirty-three Senate seats up nationally, Democrats (and independents likely to caucus with Democrats) won twenty-five. Republicans won just eight.
2. Democrats won the most votes cast in contested House races. It can well be argued that only redistricting abuses and Karl Rove’s money prevented Democrats from retaking the US House. An analysis compiled the day after the election found that 53,952,240 votes were cast for Democrats seeking House seats, while just 53,402,643 votes were cast for Republicans. That 500,000-plus advantage for the Democrats has been steadily increasing as votes from Democratic states such as Washington and Oregon continue to be counted, along with provisional ballots. FairVote’s Rob Richie explains that because of the structural advantages created by Republicans through their control of state-based redistricting processes, the Democrats did not just need to win a majority of the votes—as they did. “Democrats would have needed to win 55% of the national vote to earn a House majority.”
The point here is not to suggest that Barack Obama, congressional Democrats or their gubernatorial compatriots should be celebrated as perfect political players. In fact, quite the opposite: they ran imperfect campaigns in a tough year. But the choice that was presented to American voters was stark: Did they prefer the austerity agenda of Paul Ryan and Republican governors who have attacked unions, public education and public services? Or did they want a more humane and equitable governance.
“After the most expensive election in our history, voters defeated the relentless efforts of billionaire bullies, voter-suppressing politicians, and political strategists who broke new ground with campaigns built on blatant falsehoods,” explained People for the American Way president Michael Keegan. “Americans re-elected a president who has offered a vision of an American community in which equality and opportunity are for everybody, a vision of government that is willing and able to advance the common good while protecting the rights of individuals, and a vision of society in which we embrace our growing diversity as a unique strength of the American Way, not a threat to it.”
Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders was just a little bit more blunt.
“My sincere hope is that the Republican Party now understands that the American people do not want a government pushing right-wing extremist policies. They want a government that addresses the needs of working families, the elderly, the children and the sick, and not just the wealthiest people in this country,” says Sanders.
If the Republicans do not get it, Sanders suggests that, instead of compromising away his mandate, President Obama should keep campaigning on it.
“My strong hope is that, on behalf of the American people, President Obama forcefully challenges the right-wing extremist agenda,” says Sanders. “My hope is that he visits states around the country where House and Senate members are defending the interests of billionaires at the expense of working families, and asks those Americans to demand that their members of Congress represent them—and not powerful special interests.”
That’s the right calculus. After all, while Obama got a mandate, Bernie Sanders secured a landslide—winning more than 71 percent of the vote and every county in Vermont.
For more on progressive hopes for Obama's second term, check out Robert Scheer's latest.