Nearly two weeks after the most important presidential election since 1932, my big takeaway is that Barack Obama’s re-election was even more historic than his victory in 2008. That is, despite continuing economic ills and a Mitt Romney-Paul Ryan campaign deft at tailoring its message to what audiences wanted to hear — whether fat cats at closed-door fundraisers or on the stump in the heartland — the coalition that elected the first African-American president not only did not fray but it grew, handing the incumbent an unlikely but well-deserved victory.
* Despite all the high- and low-tech tools, as well as a mind-boggling $1.2 billion at their disposal, Romney-Ryan ran a Campaign of Magical Thinking that was a study of what happens when people live and think in a bubble. It wasn’t until about 10 p.m. on election night when Pennsylvania fell to Obama and Ohio became out of reach, that it began to dawn on the candidates and their yes-man advisers that it takes more than fairy dust to persuade a majority of voters — let alone a majority of voters in swing states — to believe you are of presidential caliber.
* Romney never could seal the deal primarily because he was unable to articulate an economic message that went beyond lower taxes and the hair-brained notion that he could create 12 million jobs with the snap of a finger. This is because he didn’t give a crap about people and was terrible at attempting to show that he did. While voters were disappointed about the slow economic recovery, many understood it was the Bush administration that had caused the recession.
* Despite Citizens United, national elections still are not for sale. At least not yet. PACs and Super PACs spent hundreds of millions of dollars on ads to attack Obama. Republican wrestling magnate Linda McMahon spent $100 million of her own money while her campaign distributed door hangers urging Connecticut votes to support she and Obama. McMahon and most Republicans bankrolled by wealthy donors were rejected, while Romney spent $6.35 per vote and Obama only $1.83.
* The Republican Party will not win another national election until it alters its extremist message. Minorities have accounted for 85 percent of the U.S.’s population growth over the past decade, with the Democratic Party reaping an overwhelming majority of newly-registered blacks, Latinos and Asian-Americans. Republicans will not be able to turn their party around by merely pandering on immigration, although they certainly will try.
* A post-racial America seems to be, if anything, further away than it did after Obama’s 2008 victory. The depiction of him as not being American — and alternatively Kenyan, Indonesian and Muslim — and therefore ineligible to be president, was not just the view of the lunatic fringe but a sizable minority of Republicans, while the fact remains that beyond Obama only two other blacks have been elected to the Senate since Reconstruction.
* Virtually every voter ID law enacted in states where Republicans held sway was overturned or held in abeyance until after the election, but efforts to disenfranchise minority voters through baseless allegations of fraud and corruption continued through Election Day in some states where poll workers made it more difficult for minorities to vote. Overall, suppression efforts were at their greatest since Jim Crow laws were abolished in the late 1950s into the 1960s.
* The president fully leveraged the advantages of incumbency. Like George W. Bush in 2004, his campaign team had the benefit of having run a national campaign and faced no primary challenges. Obama had the most sophisticated GOTV organization in electoral history while Romney had a jalopy of an organization.
* Obama benefited from an October Surprise — Superstorm Sandy — that enabled him to be presidential, lip lock with Republican Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey and get New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s endorsement while Romney fumed on the sidelines.
* What happened on the fourth Wednesday of June had repercussions on what happened on the first Tuesday of November. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts’ deciding vote in upholding the Affordable Care Act did not remove it as a campaign issue, but the high court’s validation of health-care reform left Romney with little other than repeatedly saying that he would repeal it on his first day in office.
* Fact checkers came into their own. They found many of Romney’s statements to be demonstrably false as well as a few of Obama’s, but this did not prevent the Republican candidate from lying with relatively impunity because a cowardly mainstream media more or less looked the other way as he simultaneously held opposing positions on issues ranging from abortion to Medicare to education to defense policy.
* Democrats have surrendered the intellectual high ground over decades of Republican opposition to government intervention in personal, social and economic affairs. The result is that with the exception of the Affordable Care Act, Democrats have stopped thinking big and Obama has shied away from major initiatives such as public works projects and immigration reform.
* Although that opposition has been no better personified than after the Republican takeover of the House in 2010, a vast majority of voters — as many as 80 percent in exit polls — have had it with hard-nosed politics, particularly the refusal to compromise, although that lesson remains unlearned by the Republican leadership post-election because the obstructionist Tea Party remains the tail that wags the GOP dog.
* Unbelievably, some Republicans are proclaiming that hanging onto the House despite falling further behind in the Senate and failing to retake the White House is nevertheless a mandate to continue pushing its tired agenda. After all, the popular vote was close.
* Despite a gracious concession speech, Romney continues to gripe that Obama won because he gave “gifts” to minorities and young voters, which is code for his 47 Percenters. This must have entailed quite an effort since Obama got more electoral votes than any winner since George H.W. Bush defeated Michael Dukakis in 1988.
* At the end of the day — in this case, Election Day — Obama made the better argument that he would make voters’ lives better. Nothing else mattered as much.
“Report From 20 Paws Ranch,” which is the name of his mountain hideaway, appears on Mondays.