Noam Chomsky points out that a Boston Globe analysis (11/9/08) of the Obama victory claims that the president-elect owes nothing to “traditional Democratic constituencies” like labor, women, ethnic minorities and the peace movement, because a “grassroots army of millions”–seemingly unconnected to such constituencies–“propelled” Obama’s win.
It’s worth noting, however, that this idea of a Democratic Party set free from the voting blocs that support it is a longstanding dream of corporate media and the political establishment–represented in the Globe piece by corporate Democrat Steve McMahon and conservative think-tanker Norman Ornstein. Ornstein, in fact, offers the same argument in the paper that he gave to CNN (11/14/92) during a similar round of “liberal interest group” bashing after Bill Clinton’s election in 1992, when Ornstein claimed that Clinton “enters office with the fewest debts owed to interest groups in his own party of any Democratic president in modern times.”
But the reality is not exactly as corporate media dream it. The Globe quotes McMahon–who it identifies as a “Democratic strategist,” but not as a flak for PhRMA, the prescription drug lobby–as saying that Obama “owes nothing to anyone except the people who elected him.” That’s not actually how politics works, as any corporate lobbyist knows full well, but it’s instructive to look at who the voters were who “propelled” Obama’s victory.
Among white voters, according to exit polls, Obama lost by 12 percentage points, but he more than made up this deficit with his margins with African-American (91 points), Latino (36) and Asian (27) and “other” (35) voters. Women gave Obama a decisive 13-point advantage, compared to his narrow 1-point win among men.
Obama won among those making less than $50,000 a year by a 22-point margin; the votes of those who made more than $50,000 were evenly split. Union households went for the Democrat by a 20-point margin, vs. 4 points for non-union households. Seventy-six percent of those who disapprove of the Iraq War supported Obama; 86 percent of Iraq War supporters went for McCain.
Obviously, voters’ opinions don’t translate directly into politicians’ actions; we’d live in a much different world if they did. But voters do matter enough that corporate media routinely try to wish them away.