Figuring out how President Barack Hussein Obama won re-election, and gave Mitt Romney and the national Republican leadership an electoral shellacking, may not be something many disbelieving, dyed-in-the-wool Red State voters want to contemplate at the moment. And, indeed, there are a lot of strategic and tactical political reasons for why President Obama won. That's especially apparent in the seven key battleground states where open minds triumphed over blind ideological partisanship, and where Obama's deftly crafted grass-roots rainbow coalition outperformed the aging Republican model offering a white-and-middle-class-only invitation.
Yet in the end, Obama won for gut emotional reasons: More people trusted him to keep looking forward and trying to do the right thing for all Americans in all the major areas that fall to Washington's leadership: the economy and job-related policies, health care, foreign policy, tax fairness, national security, environmental progress, national infrastructure, balanced deficit reduction.
They preferred giving Obama more time to attend these needs over going fearfully backwards with Romney to the same-old, same-old Republican trickle-down economics; to more lopsided tax cuts for the super wealthy; to more anti-science foolishness and the compounding damage of environmental neglect and climate change; to blithe denial of the need for health care reform and support of earned entitlement programs; and backwards to more hateful prejudice and prohibitions against women's rights, immigrants, gays and Americans trapped in poverty or disability and in need of thoughtful help.
Obama's appeal was "we're all in this together." Romney's underlying tactic relied on intolerance and fear: divide, conquer, step on the unfortunate, blame those who are different or in need, and neglect all but the fearful white-middle-class and the comfortable well-to-do. Obama voters saw authenticity, decency, respect and humaneness in Obama's agenda, and transparent deceit in Romney's well-documented shape-shifting. Republicans' cocky strategists didn't worry about that, because they failed to appreciate the nation's rapidly changing demographic trends, and the social glue that binds the conscience of more educated voters to the vital social purpose of national inclusiveness.
The resulting re-election of President Obama, to be sure, does not translate casually into a happy-days-are-here-again mindset. A ticking timeline awaits on the Republican-driven fiscal cliff. Avoiding another economic lapse on this issue will call for a principled compromise on deficit reduction and tax and entitlement adjustments.
Even with a stronger Democratic majority in the Senate, the hardened Republican majority in the House will have to be helped, or spurred, to the negotiating table.
Chief among Obama's other priorities must be a comprehensive effort to deal with erosion of America's middle-class jobs wrought by globalization and the off-shoring of jobs for cheaper foreign labor. Job protection measures alone won't work long to stem the hemorrhage. To remain competitive in a global market and keep jobs at home, businesses will have to achieve productivity gains and workers will need higher-level skills, more education and training. Government will have to help with that.
Obama can expect to find new allies and support in his second term. Exit polls, for example, showed a significant majority of voters support a tax increase at least for the very wealthy, and some for a broader increase, to help ease the deficit.
Republicans themselves must know that continuing to refuse tax equity and broad immigration reform will only deepen the electoral squeeze they confronted in Tuesday's election.
Still, Obama's second term will be what he makes it. His instincts and direction in his first term were consistently in the right direction. But if he is to earn the faith Americans invested in him for another, he will have to use his office's bully pulpit when bipartisan efforts fail to meet the broad challenges the nation surely will face.