While America is basking in the glow of the historic election of Barack Obama, one historic shift should not be overlooked. With his election, perhaps the era of red state/blue state 50/50 political division has been broken.
Obama was fond of saying on the campaign trail, “We can prove that we are more than a collection of Red States and Blue States – we are the United States of America. That’s who we are, and that’s the country we need to be right now.” I don’t know if anyone realized how much of a goal this was for Obama. They ran a 50 strategy because they could. Unlike any other Democrat in recent memory, Obama had millions and millions of dollars, and no Democratic states to defend, but I don’t think they ever expected to flip as many Republican states as they did.
Obama won states in every part of the country. He bridged the red state/blue state divide with a message based on unity and the economy. For the first time since 1996, we have a president that has a true mandate. He won states in every part of the country. He broke through the Republican South by winning Virginia, Florida, and possibly North Carolina. He added Iowa, Indiana, and Ohio in the Midwest. He added the Southwest in New Mexico and Nevada, and the key Mountain state of Colorado.
There seem to be two different reasons why some states flipped for Obama. In Indiana and Ohio, I think the economy powered these voters towards Obama. They were moved directly by the economic crisis and McCain’s seeming inability to handle it. The second key was Hispanic/Latino and young Cuban voters. In Florida, Colorado, New Mexico, and Nevada, these voters played a huge role with their support of Obama. Nationally, Hispanic voters supported Obama by a 2-1 margin. This was a backlash against the GOP’s anti-immigrant stance.
More than anything, the nation finally found a candidate that it could believe in and rally around. America had grown tired of the gridlock and divide. This is demonstrated by the ineffectiveness of traditional Republican campaign techniques which are used to divide. The smears, robocalls, and negative ads didn’t work both in the presidential and senate races. The real sign of a change in the mood of the electorate came when the politics of fear didn’t work. The writing was on the wall when Republicans tried to use 9/11 in 2006 and were swept.
Obama has a special opportunity to accomplish a great deal, but with this chance comes heavy expectations. In order to keep his new coalition together, the government has to get things done. More than anything people were frustrated by a divided and broken Washington that didn’t work. American has moved beyond the bitter red state/blue state divide of the past eight years, so now it is time for Washington to do the same.