The US election of 2012 was remarkable for its lack of surprises. Obama won basically the same states he won in 2008. His victory was based on overwhelming majorities among minorities and strong leads among women and the young, especially in urban areas in key swing states (Cleveland, Ohio; Philadelphia, PA; suburban DC/northern Virginia). The country remained Blue in the northeast, midwest, and far west; Red in the plains, the south, and the Rockies. Only Colorado and New Mexico interrupted an unbroken chain of Republican states stretching from Idaho to Georgia; meanwhile the Pacific coast from the Canadian to the Mexican border was democratic, as was the midwest/Great Lakes/northeast, from Minnesota to Maine.
The Democrats strengthened their hold on the Senate, winning 54 seats, but the House remained strongly Republican, with the latter holding an edge of 40 seats, 233 to 193.
Gay marriage was approved in Maryland and Maine, and voters willingly approved a major tax hike in California to save its schools and universities.
The real question now is whether such a sharply, even bitterly divided nation can hold together and function as a great power. Obama is winning a clear popular majority, with 2.5 million more votes than Romney at latest counting. But that still leaves 48% of Americans voting against his re-election.
One hopeful sign — House speaker John Boehner has said he will consider a budget deal to avoid the fiscal cliff even if it raises federal revenue as long as extensive tax reform is part of the deal. That might be an opening to a long-overdue simplification of the tax system that would benefit everyone.
Let us hope that he is sincere. Obama’s second term faces a great deal of work — fixing the budget and tax system, adjusting to stronger emerging markets and a more divided Europe, remedying the flaws in Obama’s health care plan, and laying the foundation for education and infrastructure to support the next generation. None of this will get done unless Republican obstructionism diminishes.