The 2012 Election: Mixed Results Beg Questions

The dust has settled on the 2012 election. While the Democrats overall had much better results, including the big prize of the presidency, local Republicans had another successful effort.

The 2012 election was really a mixed bag. Nationally, it was a great night for the Democrats. President Obama won by a convincing margin in the popular vote, and pretty much by a landslide in the Electoral College. Democrats picked up a few seats in the US Senate and in the House of Representatives. Statewide, President Obama and Senator Bob Casey won big. Democrats also cruised in the races for Attorney General, Auditor General and Treasurer.

There was a lot to celebrate. Locally, though, not so much.

President Obama won the state by more than 300,000 (receiving 52%) but lost Westmoreland County by 40,000 (getting only 37% of the vote). Every Republican row office candidate won convincingly here. Even coal baron billionaire – and Tea Party darling – Tom Smith won here, besting Senator Casey by 25,000 votes, (receiving 56% total here, while only 44 % statewide). Congressman Tim Murphy, whose 18th Congressional District makes up most of the county, won by a landslide to be re-elected. All the incumbent Republican state legislators won big, even in the districts where Democrats hold a large registration edge. The only Democrat successes locally were the victories of incumbent state Representatives Joe Petraca and Ted Harhai (who was unopposed).

Perhaps most disappointing was Congressman Mark Critz’s loss to Keith Rothfus, both overall and in Westmoreland. It was a tough fight for any Democrat in the new gerrymandered 12th District which was tailor-made for a Republican. Critz lost by a little more than 10,000 votes overall, but by 6,000 in Westmoreland. Critz is about as “conservative” a Democrat as there is, spent his career helping people and communities and really served as the working person’s Congressman, avoiding the Washington political scene and focusing on the district. He was defeated by a guy whose message was boilerplate and whose campaign was seemingly based entirely on that silly Grover Norquist “no-tax” pledge that Republicans all over the country are now running away from.

Nationally, President Obama’s message – and that of most Democratic candidates – clearly resonated, particularly among the swing voters that both sides chased. It seemed to me to be a message of balanced choices, rationale thought and definitely not a return to the failed economic policies, and culture wars, of the W. Bush years. Republicans on the other hand were left in disarray. This election really exposed the party of, frankly, becoming incapable of winning national elections in a United States that is evolving demographically, culturally and philosophically – and, hopefully, a national electorate that is finally rejecting failed trickle-down economics, cowboy diplomacy, policies that hurt the working class and alienate young people, and attempts to demonize anyone deemed “different.”

It’s been pathetic, albeit amusing, to watch Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, Bill O’Reilly, and all the other various ultra-conservative clones try to blame the results on everything but themselves.

So that brings us back to the Westmoreland results. Unlike the right-wing media machine I mentioned above, I will not try to blame anyone or anything. Honestly, while I have many theories, I remain puzzled why voters in our area continue to vote consistently Republican. Is this the “new normal”? Or was the irrational and obsessive hatred of President Obama the chief reason in how people voted down the ballot? Are Republicans in Westmoreland County now practically guaranteed wins the way Democrats were a generation ago?

I would love to know your thoughts. Please share at tkopas@comcast.net.