US election: no gold at the end of the rainbow

The US presidential election result was almost exactly as the best pollsters predicted  President Obama was reelected with just on half those who voted, with Romney about 2% behind.  Obama won the electoral college comfortably as his votes were concentrated in the big coastal urban states, east and west.  Romney did a bit better than McCain in 2008, taking a couple of states that Obama had won then.

But once again the real winner was the No Vote party.  We don’t have the final vote tally yet but it looks as though at least 40% of those of voting age did not vote, partly because they did not register, but mainly because they did not turn out on the day.  This is pretty much in line with previous elections, as you can see from the graph below – although a quick calculation suggests to me that the turnout is down from 2008.  The sharp decline between 1968 and 1972 in the graph was mainly due to the reduction in the voting age to 18, increasing the number of voters but not the percentage of young people who wanted to vote.

The recent rise in the percentage voting is really down to the change in the ethnic make up of the American electorate, with more voters of Hispanic and Asian origin, who it  seems are much more likely to vote.  And it was a ‘rainbow coalition’ that won the election for Obama.  According to the exit polls, the electorate was 72% white — a group that Obama lost with 39% of the white vote to Romney’s 59%.  But the 13% that is African-American gave the president 93% of their votes.  And Hispanic voters who comprised 10% of the electorate (rising up from 7.4% in 2008) gave Obama 71% to 27% for Romney (up from 67% in 2008).   Asians too voted heavily for Obama.  Romney represented the majority of Anglo-Saxon white males, as women voted 55% to 44.% in favour of Obama, while men voted 52% to 45% for Romney.  Interestingly, the ‘class vote’ was less clear.  Of those earning more than $50,000 a year, hardly a princely sum, Romney took 50% compared to Obama at 45%.

Obama’s victory came as the official unemployment rate hovers at 7.9%, slightly higher than when he took office in 2009.  Reagan was the only previous president to have been re- elected since World War II with a jobless rate above 6%.  In my previous post (Does it matter who wins?, 5 November 2012), I outlined the weak state that the US economy is in.  So the rainbow coalition that won Obama a second term is unlikely to get a crock of gold at the end of the next four years.  Already, Obama and the US Congress is now turning to dealing with the so-called fiscal cliff and government debt.  Boosting government investment to create jobs and restore living standards that have declined sharply for the average American household over the last 12 years is not in the agenda.  And neither is doing anything about the huge inequalities of wealth and income that blight US society.

A recent IMF report (http://www.imf.org/external/pubs/cat/longres.aspx?sk=40024) showed that the gini coefficient (a measure of inequality of income between the top and bottom income earners) in the US had jumped from 30.5% in 1980 to 38.6% in 2010, the largest rise in the whole world with the exception of one country, China, where it has risen from a relatively low 28% to a very high 42% during ‘the move towards the market’ in China over the last 30 years.  The most equal society in the advanced capitalist world is Norway (24%), which is also the richest.  All the Scandinavian ratios are relatively low while Germany and France are  in the middle (low 30%).  Only the UK at 33.5% is close to the US – the rise since 1980 in the UK has matched that of the US, making it the most unequal society in Western Europe!

Interestingly, there is one country that has become more equal over the last 20 years – Venezuela.  And all that improvement has been under the presidency of Chavez, with the gini coefficient falling from 45.4% in 2005 to 36.3% now.  Venezuela is now the fairest country in Latin America on this measure. Brazil maintains its status as the most unequal, while South Africa with a hugely rich tiny white minority has the infamous status of being the most unequal country in the world (63%).  It’s likely that another four years of Obama will not see the US lose its position as the most unequal society in the advanced capitalist world.  The crock of gold is held by just a few.

POSTCRIPT

It now looks as though the turnout for the 2012 presidential election was one of the lowest for some time.  If we include the estimated turnout for Florida, which still has not declared, of about 8m, it looks as though the turnout was a maximum of 126m out of around 239m of voting age, or 53%, down from 57.5% in 2008 and lower than 2004.  So the No Vote Party won again.  Voter turnout for elections in the US is 120th out of 169 countries that the American University Center for the Study of the American Electorate measures the turnout.    Every state but Iowa had a lower turnout.  Less than half of those aged under 30 voted.

A new survey by PewResearch center on non voters found that nearly 60% would have backed Obama, although 44% of them do not support either party.  Non voters are younger, more hispanic and less educated than voters.  Above all, they less well off and mostly single.  And they are much more radical than voters.  52% want government to intervene on issues; a majority want to keep the Obama healthcare plan; 55% want to raise taxes to help government spending; two-thirds want to leave Afghanistan now and nearly half asked did not want a war with Iran.  http://www.people-press.org/2012/11/01/nonvoters-who-they-are-what-they-think/

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7 Responses to “US election: no gold at the end of the rainbow”

  1. Edgar Says:

    Interesting that you draw our attention to the fact that different capitalist states have different levels of equality. Could this be something to do with more emphasis on social democracy, and doesn’t this put your profit decline theory in a different context.

    • michael roberts Says:

      Edgar. The relationship between inequality of incomes and wealth and the profitability of capital is complicated. I have commented on the relationship between capitalist crisis and inequality in previous posts. Suffice it to say that I don’t think inequality is a cause of crisis. If anything it is the other way round

  2. Mike Ballard Says:

    Nice breakdown of the vote and inequality within political States. The stat about SA is revealing. Nationalism gets the working class nowhere.

    IMO, most of the Americans who don’t vote are just politically ignorant and too intellectually lazy to make an effort in distinguishing between left and right divisions of the surplus value they produce. The contention that they are not voting because they’re somehow dissatisfied with the capitalist system is erroneous. The workers are not class conscious and that has a lot to do with a left which has been co-opted into ‘boring from within’ the system as opposed to calling for the abolition of the wage system.

  3. Charles Says:

    A couple of facts help explain the white male vote for Romney — among those who vote. 1) Working class men have endured a fall in their real wage since its peak several decades ago. 2) Also going for several decades, the Democratic Party shifted from occasional-crumbs liberalism for the masses to identity-group politics: talking a lot about democratic equality regardless of gender, race, and ethnic group while concentrating on poster-person gains for a few women, Blacks, etc. who become upscale professionals and executives.

    Making the situation worse, so-called progressives and many self-proclaimed socialists also leave white male workers wondering where they fit in.

    A countertrend within the main trends is that white male union members are more likely to vote for Obama than nonunionized white male workers — but there are many more of the latter than the former.

  4. Edgar Says:

    Working class men have no excuse voting for Romney, period.

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