“Make no mistake: What happened last night was a demographic time bomb that had been ticking,” explained Chuck Todd of MSNBC. The results of the 2012 election—reelection of the president, the addition of five new women in the Senate, and the fact that for the first time ever white males are in the minority among House Democrats—show that the demographics of America are changing.
With 332 electoral votes, President Obama was able to secure reelection. While overall turnout was lower in 2012 than in 2008, President Obama was able to turn out key demographic groups to capture the electorate. Women favored Obama by 55%, Hispanics favored him by 71%, and African-Americans favored him by 93%.
The Senate maintained a Democratic majority, with Democrats picking up one seat. Senator-elect Angus King (I-ME) announced he will caucus with the Democrats even though he is an independent, leaving Democrats with 55 senators and Republicans with 45. However, the Senate’s ideology has dramatically shifted with the newly elected Senate. Many of the victors, including Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), Joe Donnelly (D-IN), and Dean Heller (R-NV), ran independent of their party’s ideology, indicating that the Senate may have more members at the center of the political spectrum.
The House of Representatives remains in Republican control, with Democrats picking up eight seats. Lois Capps (D-CA), a registered nurse and a champion of the profession, won her race and will continue to co-chair the House nursing caucus. Notably, of the three Democrats who won in special elections with Medicare as their top campaign issue—Ron Barber (D-AZ), Kathy Hochul (D-NY), and Mark Critz (D-PA)—only Barber narrowly survived. The other two lost their bids for re-election.
Republican leadership in the House is likely to remain intact, with John Boehner (R-OH) retaining leadership as Speaker, followed by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA). On the other side of the aisle, rumors that Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) would step down turned out to be false. Congressman Steny Hoyer (D-MD) will likely remain as minority whip, the number-two position in the Democratic Caucus.
In President Obama’s first speech after reelection, he suggested that immigration reform may be his first priority in the new Congress. Yet much work remained for the “lame duck” session of the 112th Congress. With the fiscal cliff looming, Congress had the task of figuring out how to avoid sequestration that would cut both the defense and nondefense discretionary budgets by 8.2%. At press time, it remained unlikely that the 112th Congress would come up with a long-term solution.
Given the numbers, many people may think the 2012 election did not change anything. However, several milestones were achieved in this election. The Senate will have more women than ever, with 20. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) is the first openly gay senator. Mazie Hirono (D-HI) is the first Buddhist to serve in the Senate, and Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) is the first Hindu to serve in the House of Representatives. New Hampshire made history by electing the first all-female delegation. In these ways, the 2012 election will be remembered as an indication that the face of the United States has changed dramatically and that politics must adapt to reflect our nation’s rapidly changing demographics.
Molly Brenner is a senior political action specialist at ANA. Jerome Mayer is assistant director of government affairs at ANA.