The election of Nov. 6, 2012 might well become known someday as the “Backfire Election,” as many post-election autopsies are discovering.
In Minnesota and throughout the nation, many Republican strategies and assumptions backfired, rebounding to the favor of Democrats.
Here in Minnesota, the two proposed constitutional amendments on the ballot seem to have been a major factor in changing control of the Minnesota Legislature from Republican to Democratic. What an irony! When Republicans in the legislature voted to put those two amendments on the ballot, their action was partly a strategy to attract more Republicans to the polls. Their assumption was correct – that such issues (voter ID and marriage definition) have strong conservative appeal. But what the Republican legislators forgot was in this presidential general election, especially in Minnesota, there would be a massive turn-out by people voting for Obama, liberal-leaning people who would more than likely reject the two proposed amendments.
The amendments were a strong incentive for more Democrats to go vote. Once at the polls, those Democrats, naturally, tended to vote also for Democratic candidates, thus ruining Republicans’ continued control of both houses of the state legislature. In other words, strategies and assumptions backfired.
To add to that outcome, national Republican strategies and assumptions also backfired, which had a direct effect on the voting results in Minnesota. Polls showed the enthusiasm for Obama had faded considerably since 2008. Republicans assumed almost any Republican candidate – even Romney – could win by stressing the ailing economy under Obama. In one stumble after another, Romney began to sink in the polls. After Obama’s abysmal first-debate performance, Romney gained political steam. That is when Republican over-confidence set in. Democrats, even those not so eager to vote, were quickly energized by many factors, including Romney’s flip-flopping policy statements, his denigration of 47 percent of the American people and his refusal to separate himself from despicable statements made by vitriolic loud-mouths like Rush Limbaugh and Tea Party extremists spouting such nonsense as rape being part of God’s plan. As if those things weren’t bad enough, there were blatant voter suppression efforts put forth by Republican functionaries in battleground states. Attack ads against Obama, many funded anonymously by billionaires, also seemed to have backfired. The dumb and cynical assumption was voters would buy into that ludicrous cartoon of Obama as an alien socialist destroyer.
As a result, all of those sour things raised the ire of Democrats and plenty of “undecideds” and no doubt fired them up to vote. The increased turn-out trumped the strategies and assumptions of over-confident Republicans.
There are many factors and interrelated issues that cause people to vote this way or that. But there can be no doubt the “backfire” syndrome played a very big role in the Nov. 6 election, much to the chagrin of Republicans and to the delight of Democrats.