- Created on 09 November 2012
(CNN) -- I recently watched images of President Obama and Gov. Christie of New Jersey pledging to work together to get emergency aid to Hurricane Sandy's victims as quickly as possible. Gov. Christie, you'll recall, gave the keynote address at the Republican National Convention and spent a fair amount of time lambasting Obama during the campaign.
But as they toured the damaged coastline together, I thought that many women watching across the country would be moved by the leadership of these two men and their willingness to transcend their partisan differences. A Washington Post Tracking Poll seemed to confirm this: 26% of women nationally -- more than men, at 18% -- reported that Obama's handling of the hurricane response would be a major factor in determining their vote for president.
Politicians take note: Women are often motivated by different things than men.
And with their votes in Tuesday's election, women sent important messages to President Obama and to leaders of both parties. A majority of women voted to re-elect the president, while a slightly smaller majority of men voted for Romney, according to exit polls. Obama also won a majority of women's votes, with Romney winning a majority of men's, in critical battleground states such as Ohio, Florida, Virginia, Wisconsin, Iowa, Nevada, and New Hampshire.
Why did women and men vote this way? The answer lies in part in their different views about government and the role it should play in our lives.
First, women were voting for a more affirmative role on the part of the federal government. Men, more than women, have long said they favor dramatic cutbacks in the size of government. Women, more than men, worry that cutbacks will go too far; they are concerned with preserving America's social safety net for those in need---programs such as Medicaid, school lunches and child nutrition programs, and Supplemental Security Income for elderly and disabled individuals.
This will be particularly important as President Obama and Congress work on a deal to save the country from falling off the fiscal cliff. Women will be watching to make sure that the basic social infrastructure is not threatened.
Second, women care about their own health and welfare, and that of their families and other Americans. Consequently, they denied their votes to candidates that showed extremism on issues such as abortion and contraception and backed those who supported women's right to control their reproductive decisions.
Nowhere was this more apparent than in the Senate contests in Missouri and Indiana, two conservative states where voters strongly preferred Romney in the presidential race. But in the Senate race the majority of women voted for Democrat Claire McCaskill, while only about a third voted for Republican Todd Akin, who in a discussion of his no-exceptions policy on abortion, said in a televised interview in August that "if it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down."
Similarly, in Indiana, a majority of women voted for Democrat Joe Donnelly, helping him defeat Republican Richard Mourdock, who said in a U.S. Senate debate that "even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that is something that God intended to happen."
Women's personal views on abortion may vary, but few are not offended by extreme statements like these. Women voters, in general, would prefer that lawmakers devote their energy to solving the nation's economic problems rather than regulating and restricting women's access to contraception and their ability to make reproductive choices.
Finally, women want strong leaders who can work across party lines to solve problems -- which brings us back to Christie and Obama. Women who were moved by Obama's actions along the Jersey Shore would likely be pleased if he showed the same kind of unifying leadership in Washington. That may in part be why they helped reelect him. And they would be equally pleased to see Congress set aside its petty bickering and partisan gamesmanship and work with the president to solve the very grave problems our country confronts.
- Created on 08 November 2012
(CNN) -- Now that the campaign is over and Barack Obama has won a second term, the hard business of governing begins again. There's a presidential inbox waiting and it's not too hard to figure out what's in it. Problems don't have Democrat or Republican stamped on them: they just are. So here are my top five issues facing the president.
Finding our footing in the new Arab world
Obviously this election was about the economy first, second and third. But the world intrudes. Our election campaign did not keep terrorists from killing American diplomats in Benghazi, nor did it stop the violence in Syria. When all the ballots are counted and the parks swept clean of the debris from election night rallies, President Obama will have to figure out what is happening in this very volatile part of the world and what, if anything, we do about it.
We intervened in Libya to get rid of an awful dictator, but so far we have not intervened to get rid of the awful dictator in Syria. As the violence escalates and the Syrian president wreaks ever more death and destruction on his people, will we be drawn into an intervention there too? After 9/11 we went to war with Iraq over a mistaken fear of nuclear weapons. Is Iran developing nuclear weapons or are we wrong to be concerned? Will we go to war with Iran too?
Preventing the fiscal cliff
While President Obama has been crisscrossing the country looking for votes, the people left behind in Washington have been wringing their hands over the dangers posed to the fragile economic recovery by the severe combination of spending cuts and tax increases that are due to kick in on New Year's Eve. This so-called "fiscal cliff" was the result of politicians kicking the can down the road a few years ago. Will they do it again? Or will there be a grand bargain that actually puts the country on the path to smaller deficits?
There are plenty of plans on the shelf waiting, including those put together by the big deficit reduction commissions such as Simpson/Bowles and Rivlin/Domenici. And there's the plan almost put together by President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner. The problem isn't the lack of plans; it's the lack of courage. The outlines of any deal have been clear for some time now: Democrats have to give up some spending, especially on entitlements like Social Security and Medicare, and Republicans have to allow for some new taxes. Each side has to hold it's nose if a deal is to be done. Which brings me to the next issue facing President Obama:
Dealing with the Republicans
Obama must figure out how to deal with a Republican Party in Congress that has become dysfunctional. In 2010 a relatively small group of voters calling themselves the Tea Party launched a surprise attack on the leadership of the Republican Party. Under President Bush, the Republican Party had gotten a little too fond of world domination and a little too dismissive of the party's traditional concern for fiscal discipline. Frankly, they deserved a trip to the woodshed.
But once their new majority in the House of Representatives was won, the leadership overreacted, and rather than forge a majority that could perhaps make some progress, they cowered before their new members like frightened children. The result? No progress. If the Republican leadership continues to tremble before their most radical members, the entire party risks a rightward slide off the face of the earth. And President Obama will have to figure out how to work around them.
Cutting a deal on tax reform
It's been 25 years since a Democratic Congress and President Reagan cleaned out the tax code and achieved lower rates and fewer loopholes. But tax loopholes grow back like dandelions in the garden. The current tax code is a mess. It rewards some sectors of the economy and not others. It distorts business decision-making and it makes sure that those who don't need it have plenty of tax deductions. It's time to weed that garden once again.
Amazingly enough in this era of extreme polarization, both presidential candidates have expressed support for lowering the corporate tax rate to 25% and simplifying the corporate side of the code. It's possible that they could agree on the easy stuff on the corporate side and move to the harder stuff on the individual side. Tax reform will be part and parcel of a long-term deficit deal. Tax cuts for the oil and gas industry are a favorite target of President Obama, and they are just one example of many industry-specific tax breaks that might get swept up in a big tax deal.
And finally I come to the issue that was not mentioned in the presidential campaign: climate change. The Democrats' one attempt at climate change legislation died in 2010, a victim of the recession and also of the fear that confronting it would increase energy costs on a public still reeling from the meltdown. The failure of the climate bill began, however, the issue's long, slow slide into oblivion; a slide so complete that both candidates spent their debates falling all over themselves to prove they were friends of coal.
But coal is the big culprit in climate change, a fact conveniently ignored when the votes of Ohio are at stake. How fitting then, that in the very last week of the campaign, a gigantic hurricane would destroy the Jersey shore and close down lower Manhattan. The seas are rising after all; there is something happening after all. What, President Obama, are you going to do about it? The options are plentiful, from taxing carbon to pouring more money into green energy. They just haven't been very palatable. Maybe hurricane Sandy can change that.
- Created on 07 November 2012
(CNN) -- A black man is returning to the White House.
Four years ago, it was a first, the breaking of a racial barrier. Tuesday night, it was history redux.
In the midst of national splintering and a time of deep ideological animosity, Americans elected President Barack Obama to a second term. And thousands rejoiced in his victory, one that seemed sweeter and, perhaps, more significant.
This is affirmation that his color doesn't matter and that his message resonated with people," said Yale University sociologist Jeffrey Alexander, author of "Obama's Victory and the Democratic Struggle for Power."
"It is very important in that it will indicate that an African-American can be viewed for what he says and not what he is."
Had Obama lost the election, he would likely have been remembered in history as the first black president, and maybe little else, Alexander said.
Now, he has a chance to create a legacy rooted not in his identity, but in his ideas.
University of Houston sociologist Shayne Lee agreed.
"If this country wants President Obama to have another term, I'm ready to say that it's a significant moment," he said.
As an African-American, Lee understood the power of 2008. But his excitement was measured.
He knew the nation was tired then of two costly wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, a sinking economy and an administration that he felt excluded ordinary people. He thought Arizona Sen. John McCain was a weak candidate and that the cards were stacked in Obama's favor. Four years later, Obama traversed a much tougher road, Lee said.
Americans had a strong alternative in the Republican challenger, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. The nation, he felt, was no longer in a desperate state and voters had more of a choice. Despite that, they elected a black man. Again.
"They sent a message to the world that whatever racist proclivities might exist are not enough to preclude Obama from winning," Lee said.
"We cannot deny that this is new social space we occupy in this country."
A changing America, Lee believes, will be very much a part of Obama's national conversation in a second term. That includes a stronger stance on race relations, an issue some believe Obama had to distance himself from in his first term for political expediency. For that, he drew criticism from African-Americans with high expectations of a black president.
"Can you imagine knowing you're the first black president and you have to win the Midwest to win a second term?" he said. "It's such a thin thread that holds together his ability to win as a black candidate.
"The constraints are not going to be there in his second term. He's going to have much more swagger."
In playwright and New York radio show host Esther Armah's estimation, Obama's re-election feels more historical than his first because of what she views as a tide of callousness toward people of color.
She criticized measures like the new voter ID laws in several states, which she said obstruct participation and "desecrated" American democracy. She said re-electing Obama represented a denunciation of those measures and the Republican presidential candidate who supported them.
"It's really important to recognize that this was not just a choice to put someone back into the White House," Armah said, "but a choice to reject a man who demonstrated callousness."
"I have exhaled. I am breathing," she said.
Obama's victory, said CNN contributor Van Jones, was possible because of the support of a coalition of people who reflect America's demographics.
"Nobody believed four years ago that you could have black folks and lesbians and gays and Latinos and young folk, standing together to move the country forward," said Jones, a former special adviser to Obama.
But Obama was demonized, he said, and turned into a cartoon character. African-Americans asked if someone like Obama is not acceptable, then who is?
"There is vindication here," Jones said. "This is a backlash against the backlash. You saw African-Americans stepping up, Latinos stepping up, young people stepping up ... saying we're better than we've been seeing on the attacks on this president."
The challenge for Obama in the next four years, however, will no longer be racial in nature, Alexander said. It is certain to be ideological.
Obama won't ever have to run for office again, but he will have to make his case for policies, Alexander said.
"His goal has been to be a post-polarization candidate, and he naively believed he could do that as a president," he said. "He didn't want to be a highly partisan figure. As a result, he couldn't control the political debate. He's going to have to keep campaigning and not become a policy wonk."
Obama seemed to recognize that in his victory speech early Wednesday in his native Chicago, the city where he first fostered hopes and launched dreams.
He told the roaring crowd, made up of that previously improbable coalition, that he planned to sit down with Mitt Romney in the weeks ahead to chart a new course for the country.
"We believe in a tolerant America, open to the dreams of an immigrant's daughter who pledges to our flag, to the young boy on the south side of Chicago who sees a life beyond the street corner, to the furniture worker's child in North Carolina who wants to become a doctor or a diplomat or even a president," Obama said.
"We will rise and fall as one nation, and as one people. It doesn't matter if you are black or white, young or old, rich or poor. You can make it in America, if you're willing to try."
It was a reflection of his own journey, of a man who'd made it as a two-term black president.
- Created on 07 November 2012
The Chicago Media reported that the rising Chicago homicide rate hit a devastating 436 with the death of a father, Carlos Alexander, caught in the cross-fire of gangs. The blame is misdirected toward the lack of available Chicago Police Officers. This isn't the root cause of the mounting homicide epidemic. The causal connection is father absence. The correlation between fatherless children and the rate of violence is not something to be taken lightly, and will not be corrected by putting more police officers on the street to act as a band-aid for a much larger social issue.
The structure of the family unit is threatened by gender bias and parental alienation that prevent many good fathers from staying involved in their children's lives. We must restore fatherhood as a societal norm in our community to decrease crime. Many fathers do not stand a chance against the gender perception that they lack the ability to care for their children. This flawed belief must be modified through revised social thought and legislative reform to provide them the opportunity to do so. The single strongest predictor of crime in America is father absence, not the amount of police officers on the street.
Over half of the homicides in Chicago this year were committed by members of gangs comprised of many fatherless youth. Without the presence of a biological father, a child or teen will instinctively search for guidance from someone who represents a strong leadership role. Too frequently, those children will find the guidance they desperately need in street gangs. The violent culture of gangs builds its membership by feeding off of young fatherless victims. A boy can't be what he can't see.
In a previous discussion on my radio show with President Barack Obama, he correctly spoke of the need of paternal support in modifying the system. The President stated:
"The government can help to make sure that we don't have a disincentive for fathers to be involved; make sure that our welfare programs for example are designed in such a way that they don't penalize fathers participating".
By allowing fathers to assume their given role as providers and protectors for their children, we can encourage a positive lifestyle guided by responsible parenting. Critical studies have found that father-absent boys commit far more felonies than did the father-present groups. It is clear that the presence of a father is imperative to the emotional and safe development of a child.
According to Chicago Media, we have more police officers per capita than Los Angeles and New York City, and yet, Chicago's homicide rate is still higher than both major cities. It is crucial that we do not pacify this problem by simply snipping at the branches by placing more officers in the field. We need to cut into the roots of the problem and end the social epidemic of father absenteeism.
Records show that this retroactive tactic of increasing the police force will not be the solution. Just five years ago, the number of Chicago homicides totaled 500. At that time, there were approximately 1,000 more police officers than there are today. As the total number of homicides continues to increase, it is time we initiate the obvious solution of restoring fatherhood in our communities.
Until all fathers and children are provided the opportunity to engage in positive relationships, other proposed remedies are just temporary solutions. The death of Alexander exceeds the total homicides from last year with two months remaining in 2012. It is crucial that we tap into the resources of responsible fatherhood and take proactive measures to eliminate gender bias that creates father absence, resulting in the horrific homicides in Chicago.
For more advice on safeguarding your children and providing them with the best choices for a safe future, go to www.dadsrights.com or follow me on
- Created on 06 November 2012
CNN) -- Just because President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney mostly have avoided talking religion during this campaign doesn't mean religion won't play a big role in determining the winner of the presidential race. Here are six ways religion's role in the electorate may shape the outcome on Tuesday.
1. Will Catholics pick the winner, again? Representing more than a quarter of the electorate and voting with the winner of the popular vote in every presidential election since at least 1972, Roman Catholics are quintessential swing voters. They encompass such a diverse set of concerns and ethnic groups that some challenge the very idea of a Catholic "voting bloc." However, both campaigns have conducted intense outreach to Catholic voters and have Catholic vice presidential nominees -- Joe Biden and Paul Ryan.
2. Will evangelicals turn out en masse? There's been much speculation about whether white evangelicals, who have accounted for more than a third of Republican votes in recent elections, will turn out in force for Mitt Romney, a Mormon who for years supported abortion and gay rights. Those three facts trouble many evangelical conservatives. Evangelical leaders such as the influential the Rev. Billy Graham have indicated support for Romney (though Graham stopped short of an official endorsement), but will enough evangelicals in the pews turn out to put Romney over the top in swing states such as Ohio and Virginia? Will Obama peel off evangelical votes in states like Colorado, like he did in 2008?
3. Will the "no religion" demographic grow? Americans with no religion are the fastest-growing "religious" group in the country, with a recent Pew survey finding that such voters represent 20% of the population. More than six in 10 of these voters are Democrats. Because they accounted for 12% of the electorate in 2008, they're an important part of the Democratic base. So will they be even more important today? What would that mean for a Democratic Party that has embraced religion since the "values voter" election of 2004?
4. Will Jewish voters be as solidly Democratic as in the past? Obama won a whopping 78% of Jewish voters in 2008, an impressive proportion even among a solidly Democratic segment of the country. But Republicans have made a serious play for Jewish votes, alleging that Obama has been insufficiently supportive of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government. Jewish voters represent just a couple percent of the national electorate, but their numbers are bigger in swing states such as Florida and Pennsylvania.
5. Will black churchgoers be as loyal to Obama as last time? Recent polls show the that the president enjoys 90%-plus support among African-Americans. But many black pastors have criticized Obama for personally backing gay marriage in May. Will that dampen black turnout?
6. Which way will frequent churchgoers go? The United States' large number of churchgoers makes it unique among industrialized nations. People who attend a house of worship at least once a week account for roughly four in 10 voters. President George W. Bush won 60% of those voters in 2004, one of the lynchpins of his victory, and Obama's inroads among such voters helped him win traditionally red states such as Indiana and North Carolina in 2008. The Romney/Ryan ticket has courted this group, saying the Obama White House has attacked religious liberty and American values. Obama's outreach has been more subtle, with the Obama campaign releasing a video of the president discussing his faith over the weekend. The Republican ticket is expected to win this demographic, but the size of its victory may determine whether Romney/Ryan take the White House.