Some thoughts regarding the recent presidential election:

The saying “If you’re not a liberal when you’re 20, you have no heart. If you’re not a conservative when you’re 40, you have no head” is widely and wrongly ascribed to Winston Churchill. In actual fact, the phrase originated with Francois Guisot, a French statesman who was born in the 18th century, who said: “Not to be a republican at twenty is proof of want of heart; to be one at thirty is proof of want of head.” It was later revived by French Premier Georges Clemenceau who said: “Not to be a socialist at twenty is proof of want of heart; to be one at thirty is proof of want of head”.

This thought came to mind repeatedly in the context of the last presidential election. I voted for Obama in 2008 but seriously considered voting for Mitt Romney in 2012 because I felt that Obama really did not deserve reelection. I felt that Romney would be an effective and competent leader when it came to the economy and despite his right wing slant during the primaries on social issues, I felt that his overall track record was that of a right of center moderate. I finally decided against voting for him because Romney like most presidential candidates lacks foreign policy experience which should not be held against him ……. but the difference was that most of Romney’s foreign policy advisers were the same neo-cons who advised George W Bush (also a foreign policy neophyte) and were the catalyst for his disastrous decisions when it came to Iraq and Afghanistan.

Obama won the election because of overwhelming support from African-Americans, Hispanics and Asian Americans. He also had more support when it came to voters under the age of 40 years. Obama got 93 percent of black voters (representing 13 percent of the electorate), 71 percent of Latinos (representing 10 percent), and 60 percent of young voters. He also won the female vote, getting 53 percent of women voters. However, Obama won only 39% of the white vote and men favored Romney over Obama as did older white people and the wealthy.

To illustrate the impact of demographic changes in the US over the past 20 years, it is worth noting that the percentage of the white vote that Romney received was about the same as received by George HW Bush in 1988 against Michael Dukakis ………. and Bush won that election by a landslide!

Shown below is an interesting graphic of the share of vote that Romney received among different demographic groups:

Demographic share of votes for Romney

My own views are decidedly liberal when it comes to social issues but despite these leanings, I do agree with conservatives who say that the US is becoming increasingly a “nanny state”. It is stunning that almost half the country pays no income tax and many of those people receive welfare benefits of some sort ……and not all are legitimate recipients of welfare in terms of need. For many years I viewed the claim by the right wing that welfare was being given indiscriminately as baseless or exaggerated. But more recently, I have become aware of instances where people known to me receive welfare and it would be a stretch to say that these individuals are under-privileged or truly needy. I also agree with Republicans who say that the Democrat’s solution to all of the social ills that exist is to throw money at the problem.

Even the whole issue of how best to deal with illegals is one that I have more sympathy with the Republican position. I am not able to fathom the rationale for offering amnesty to the 12-20 million illegals who are in the US. The liberal argument is that given that many have been here for decades, it would be wrong to deport them. But the reality is that they came to the country illegally and just because they have been here for many years does not make their illegal entry and more justifiable. The only group I have any measure of sympathy for are young children who were brought by their parents and have lived here most of their lives. The Democrats pander to this group – consisting mostly of Hispanics – because they are looking to win the votes of these demographic and have so far been successful doing so. There is no other country in the world where people enter illegally and then by virtue of having lived in the country for many years they then demand that their status is legitimized. Keep in mind that in 1986, Reagan approved amnesty for several million illegals as a humanitarian gesture with the understanding that there would be strict border enforcement to prevent more illegals entering the country! Now we hear the same argument being offered as the rationale for offering amnesty to those in the country illegally today.

There is this constant refrain about needing to spend more on education because the US is lagging especially in math and the sciences. The US already spends more per capita than most countries in the world so funding is not the real problem. In fact, the children of immigrants who come to the US, often not knowing English, are able to perform exceptionally well because their parents take an interest and give priority in their children’s education. American parents tend to feel that it is the responsibility of the schools and teachers to ensure that their children do well – this is a somewhat generalized statement but there is truth to it.

Right now the Republican party is going through a period of soul searching as to how to broaden their support while Democrats are sounding the death knell of the Republican party. What tends to be lost in this “noise” is that despite the recent election, 29 of the states have Republican governors and the House of Representatives is still controlled by the Republicans.

Red colored states under Republican control

In fact, if the Republicans had not run some right wing-nuts for several Senate seats in 2010 and 2012, the likelihood is that the Senate would also have been controlled by the Republicans. It would be a mistake to read too much into Obama’s victory in terms of the future that it portends for the Republican party.

To paraphrase Mark Twain, reports of the (impending) death of the Republican party are greatly exaggerated!

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