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Il Fatto Quotidiano, Italy

US Elections: Obama Wins but
Country Is Fractured

By Roberto Festa

Translated By Francesca Baldanzi

7 November 2012

Edited by Kyrstie Lane

Italy - Il Fatto Quotidiano - Original Article (Italian)

A clear victory. A divided country. The verdict returns after one of the most dramatic and hard-fought elections in the recent history of the United States. Barack Obama has been re-elected. The president was able to take all the key swing states except North Carolina. Nevertheless, the popular vote shows an America cut in half. While Democrats keep control of the Senate, Republicans strengthen their House majority. Evidently, division and struggle will characterize the coming months, as they marked the campaign that just ended.

An important fact must be noted concerning the electoral map. Obama’s re-election came when Ohio, Florida and Virginia had not yet been assigned. Votes coming from Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Iowa, Nevada and Colorado were enough to end the game. This result contradicted expectations (for weeks it was said that Ohio would be decisive), proving one thing above all: voters from the Midwest and West — many of them affected by a severe economic crisis and job losses — support Obama's idea of the government’s role as an economic driver and job creator.

The most powerful fact of these elections, which explains the outcome, is probably related to the social forces that kept Obama in the White House. The coalition of groups and interests that carried the Democratic president to triumph four years ago is still active. Women, young people, African-Americans and Latinos voted again with the same energy and participation as four years ago. The coalition has probably lost some pieces. It is likely that some white voters, middle-class and working-class people most affected by the crisis, preferred to vote for Republicans this year. But the coalition still exists and has become a key force in American politics.

Basically, it is a socio-cultural and demographic coalition that believes in a more broadminded, tolerant and inclusive America. It is not a coincidence that all the most important referenda voted on yesterday saw progressive causes win. Voters in Maryland and Maine approved same-sex marriage. Also, in Maryland, there has been victory for those who think that undocumented immigrants can and should have access to state colleges. Furthermore, Colorado and Washington legalized the “recreational use” of marijuana. These are signs of significant events that are also confirmed by the victory of many Democratic senators whose battles had gained national relevance. Elizabeth Warren won in Massachusetts, Claire McCaskill in Missouri, Joe Donnelly in Indiana, Chris Murphy in Connecticut, Tim Kaine in Virginia. Tammy Baldwin in Wisconsin will be the first openly gay senator in American history. Republican politicians like Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock, who spoke about “legitimate rape” and “rape as a gift from God,” had their careers cut short.

Moreover, the 2012 election represents a point of no return for the Republicans. The party of the elderly and white, the two groups from which the GOP gets the most support, is not one that can compete and win in the 21st century. “The white establishment is now the minority,” Fox News' Bill O'Reilly said controversially. According to Marco Rubio, the Republican Florida senator, “The conservative movement should have particular appeal to people in minority and immigrant communities who are trying to make it.” This especially concerns Latinos. In 2004 George W. Bush won 44 percent of the Latino vote. John McCain won 31 percent. Romney, who has recognized Obama’s victory, fell to 27 percent. If Republicans do not want to lose the support of the most vital sectors for generations to come, they must quickly change their course.

There is still the issue of the work to be done in the upcoming months. In his acceptance speech at McCormick Place, Obama called with particular urgency for the unity of America, the need to overcome divisions, the dialogue between diverse people. “We remain more than a collection of red states and blue states. We are, and forever will be, the United States of America,” he said, echoing a point already used in the campaign four years ago. Obama offered to Congress, then to the House Republicans, a joint work program for the upcoming months: deficit reduction, a new tax code, an integrated immigration reform. The “no” is virtually certain and has been announced in the last few hours by Republican House speaker, John Boehner. Therefore, it is likely that the coming months will see the bitter divisions already experienced during the campaign. But this belongs to the future. For now, in the streets of Chicago, there is above all the desire to celebrate the return — expected, difficult, hard — of Barack Obama to the White House.



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