Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Thoughts on the election

I suppose it goes without saying that Tuesday night was a profound and moving moment in American history. Several of the thousands gathered in Chicago's Grant Park carried posters proclaiming:
"Rosa sat, so Martin could march, so Barack could run, so our children could fly"
The New York Times provides a simple narrative for why Obama won:
"His triumph was decisive and sweeping, because he saw what is wrong with this country: the utter failure of government to protect its citizens. He offered a government that does not try to solve every problem but will do those things beyond the power of individual citizens: to regulate the economy fairly, keep the air clean and the food safe, ensure that the sick have access to health care, and educate children to compete in a globalized world."
Interestingly, exit polls paint a similarly straight forward picture of how Obama won. Paul Krugman summarizes the results:

"At the risk of being a party-pooper, I’ll second Andrew Gelman: there’s not much evidence in the vote for anything besides a broad shift to Democrats, almost the same (~8%) across all the states, and probably a reaction to the state of the economy, stupid. There were a few big anomalies in McCain’s direction — what’s the matter with Arkansas? — and a few in Obama’s, mainly Indiana.

But basically there was a national wave against Republicans, suggesting that we don’t need a complex narrative."

Definitely check out Gelman's exit poll analysis. There are some interesting trends, though not shocking: Obama won big among young voters and his largest gains were among ethnic minorities. We saw the usual trend that wealthier voters were more likely to vote Republican, but the relationship changed at the highest income levels:

Obama won 52% to 46% among people with incomes over $200,000. These are the people most at risk from Obama's "socialist" redistribution plans. Robert Frank over at the Wealth Report has some theories on this. It seems likely that given the current climate, wealthy voters placed more emphasis on the nation's financial stability than on their own. Of course, you can't discount the possibility that people are betting against Obama actually raising taxes in a recession.

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