Why Barack Obama won twice (and why Hillary Clinton won the popular vote in 2016)


What would have happened if in his Inaugural Address President Barack Obama, under a strange “Twilight Zone” spell, had quoted another famous Democratic president: “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.”

Wouldn’t he quickly have been dragged into an emergency meeting with a handful of panicky leading Democrats? “Barack, did you bang your head on a steel cabinet or something? Are you trying to lose your base? Please, get back out there and get our message right: ‘Ask not what you can do for your country, but what your country can do for you.’”

That reversal fairly well gauges where, on the spectrum of evolving political ideology, apparently most liberals have thus far landed since Democratic President John Kennedy uttered those famous words – now infamous, I suspect, to most modern Democrats – in his Inaugural Address on January 20, 1961.

Consider another change, the new trend of Democratic presidents (Obama and Clinton) winning a second term, a rarity for Democrats since FDR.

This trend, along with the Democrats’ shift toward asking for government help, might PIIGSnewsignal that the USA is lurching toward PIIGSville – the out-of-control spending ways of Portugal, Italy, Ireland, Greece, and Spain. Hence, PIIGS may soon become PIIGSUSA. I pronounce it pig-soosa.

As with PIIGS, the United States does seem to be witnessing more of what Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly calls people who in our “Where’s mine?” age “want stuff.” To them, the promise-them-something-for-nothing Obama is the perfect president; he is, in fact, the president who made roughly twice as many campaign promises – over 500 – as either George W. Bush or Bill Clinton.

In which demographic groups are there more people who demand stuff they believe can be provided for nothing? (Or can be provided by raising taxes on the rich — which to them is never a bad thing and is maybe always a good thing.)

The young, women, and minorities. The groups that elected Obama in 2008 and again in 2012.

Let’s examine why.

In which of the following two groups are there more of those who are knowledgeable about the economy and politics:

High school grads or college grads? (Notice I didn’t ask, “Which group is more knowledgeable….?” That’s framing it the wrong way. If I had framed it that way and you replied, “College grads are more knowledgeable,” you’d suggest that you might believe and want others to believe, especially if you are a college grad yourself, that every college grad is more knowledgeable than every high school grad — which is extremely improbable if not impossible. Such a suggestion is the dangerous result of making generalizations,* as the media in particular so often do, without, I think, realizing what they’re saying.)

No doubt many high school grads are quite knowledgeable about the economy and politics, and many college grads are not. In fact, some high school grads conceivably are more knowledgeable than all of the college grads.

But we are talking about which group has the bigger number of the knowledgeable. That is college grads by virtue of their older age, higher education, and likely already greater job experience in politics and the economy.

What about the youth vs. the old? The same analysis applies as above: some young adults know far more than many of the old. But by virtue of the old’s greater free time and longer experience with politics and economics (and bigger viewership of the network evening news**), the number of the old who are knowledgeable is bigger than the number of the young who are.

And minorities vs. whites? Again, the analysis applies. But whites’ greater number of college grads, office holders, and workers in the fields of politics and economics obviously means there are more whites (many more, given their much bigger population) who are knowledgeable about politics and economics.


Pitching to women.

Finally, what about men vs. women, whose vote Obama won by 11 percentage points? Once again, the analysis holds: there are a lot of women who know a lot more about politics and economics than a lot of men; as a matter of fact, hordes of women may know more than any man in the country.


But men don’t just outnumber women in jobs grounded in politics and economics. Based on my empirical evidence, men also outnumber women among individuals maintaining an active personal interest in the two topics. (My wife admits she doesn’t know anything about politics or economics, and doesn’t care to know. In the ’08 elections, she voted for Obama. We’re still married and talking to each other.) So reasonable people, I think, can say there are more men than women who are knowledgeable about politics and economics. This is supported in a study by the Economic and Social Research Council. The study, as reported by the UK’s very liberal Guardian, says, “Women living in developed countries that promote gender equality, such as the U.S. and United Kingdom, either have equal — or even wider — knowledge gaps” in politics than in less developed countries.

It appears the most inexperienced candidate was elected by the most inexperienced voters.

You already know my conclusion: the groups who have the bigger number of the less knowledgeable about how politics and the economy function, and who have the bigger number of those who’d likely adopt the credo “Ask what your country can do for you” because they falsely believe liberal politicians can give them “stuff” with little or no pain – these are the groups who are taking us inexorably down the PIIGSville lane, possibly to Obama’s and Democrats’ glee — and especially to Bernie Sanders’ glee.

These are the groups that will likely hand Hillary Clinton the throne in November 2016.


*Decades ago, I learned the value of not making generalizations (though I still make them when I’m too lazy, too tired, or too impatient to do it right!). A writer by the name of Gene Marine illustrated in the 1970s: He said you can’t say — and I take great liberties in my paraphrasing — “Men are bigger than women, suggesting to many that every man is bigger than every woman. Here’s how you laboriously must put it: The biggest men are bigger than the biggest women, and the smallest women are smaller than the smallest men. But in between, a huge number of men and women are the same size.” What this importantly means is that millions of big women are bigger than millions of small men.

**The evening network news programs report regularly on the economic riots and protests in Spain, Greece, and the other PIIGS countries. Thus, they serve somewhat as tutors on both economics and politics. Want to know whether the programs are watched more by the young or by the old? Check out the ads on the news shows.


Young voters hit the polls in droves during the 2008 election and most cast their ballots for Barack Obama. And in 2012, 60% of millennials ages 18 to 29 voted for Obama; only 37% voted for Romney, according to exit polls by the National Election Pool. Voters over 40, on the other hand, were more likely to vote for Romney.

“…[O]ur young adults already have been molded to be the first generation of American socialists.

“It’s not some wacko conspiracy theory. It’s just research that shows the influence of our education system, media and pop culture have instilled in most young people a lack of understanding about economics and free markets, as well as a misconception about the proper role of government in our daily lives.”

More in “Civic illiteracy won the White House for Obama.”


About relevantmatters

I do research and writing about issues that are relevant to our lives -- such as politics, peace, health care, climate change, and advice to young people. For relief, I offer a few short fiction pieces.
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13 Responses to Why Barack Obama won twice (and why Hillary Clinton won the popular vote in 2016)

  1. You have everything backwards. The people you are labeling as “more knowledgeable” are actually just the people who the system of America actually works for, Old White Men. The people who elected Obama are all the people who the system of America does not work for. As the number of Americans that benefited from the system shrank, it eventually reached a tipping point. I certainly hope this generation is the first American generation of socialists, America desperately needs it. Certainly our education, media and pop culture have deceived most Americans to the horrible truth about economics and free markets as well as misled them on the proper role of government. A social democracy movement is desperately needed.

    And it is deeply ironic that you would quote Kennedy’s line, in a post repudiating Kennedy’s line. The people who whine about having to support the system that allowed them to become wealthy in the first place, and who want to destroy their own social safety nets out of the hubris of believing they will never be poor, are the very definition of people asking what the country can do for them (very little considering they are already wealthy), and not what they can do for their country.

    • relevantmatters says:

      Re: “The people you are labeling as “more knowledgeable” are actually just the people who the system of America actually works for, Old White Men. The people who elected Obama are all the people who the system of America does not work for.”

      I tend to be a stickler for concrete explanations. So could you please explain specifically how the system helps ALL white men and how and who is it that the system does not work for?

      You seem to be influenced by the apex fallacy. “The apex fallacy is the idea that we use the most visible members of a group to make generalizations about the entire group; i.e., we see prominent men at the top of the pyramid and think all men are doing well, when in fact there are a great many at the bottom of the pyramid, too.” -Alison Beard, a senior editor at Harvard Business Review

      After you provide the explanation I asked for, maybe we can delve into your other points.

      By the way, re: “The people you are labeling as “more knowledgeable” are actually just the people who the system of America actually works for, Old White Men.” I did not label anyone as more knowledgeable. Please reread it and you’ll see how carefully I avoided saying that! I said in certain groups there more people who are knowledgeable….

      Actually, the system works better for old white women:

      In general, women don’t just live longer and enjoy better health than men, who on average die sooner and at a higher rate of the 12 leading causes of death. They as a group also control most of the consumer spending and most of the nation’s wealth. Soon they will control even more.

      “Over the next decade, women will control two thirds of consumer wealth in the United States and be the beneficiaries of the largest transference of wealth in our country’s history. Estimates range from $12 to $40 trillion. Many Boomer women will experience a double inheritance windfall, from both parents and husband.” -http://www.she-conomy.com/facts-on-women

      The typical wife is 2.5 years younger than her husband and outlives him by five years. Thus she enjoys her and her husband’s wealth 7.5 years longer than the husband, who much more often than she created their wealth alone, meaning the wife frequently receives the greater benefit of the husband’s labor. (See another way white women were boosted economically: “Why affirmative action has failed black families” http://malemattersusa.wordpress.com/2012/02/08/why-affirmative-action-has-failed-black-families/ )

      To put the import of these statements in the proper gender perspective, reverse the sexes in them so that the statements are true of men only. Just by themselves, the statements would signify enough male power, privilege, and advantage that feminists would explode out on to the streets in visceral, thunderous protest.

      • Oscarphone says:

        Relevencematters, I’m not sure if you interface with many Progressives but this kind of easy-to-blame thinking is rampant on college campuses (campi?) and, well, basically every far left web site on earth (moveon.org, etc.). The cornerstone of this type of thinking seems to be a complete stupidity of free markets and the iron belief that the average American is a complete moron who can’t figure out what is really good for him/her. And of history. They and their closest friends are the exception of course. Smacks of Dunning-Kruger don’t you think? Mix in a little hyperbolic leftist BS about conservatives (feeding grandma cat food, while having her live in a cardboard box) and you have Mr. McKibben’s world view. Tragic really.

    • You want social democracy: where the majority impose their demands on the minority. This country was conceived on the idea of democracy of individual ideas succeeding or failing on their merits, free from government influence, for or against. Then society progresses on the aggregate outcome of those ideas. Only then can we have a true democracy (We gave that up with the advent of progressive liberal social democracy). Your way is an oppressive might makes right, majority rules, backward towards serfdom, democracy.
      This country’s politics and economics are faltering under the growing weight of social democracy. The 2% growth in GDP over the past five years is from the private sector adhering to the fundamentals of economics, despite the constant headwinds from this administration. Without the steps to tighten costs and increase productivity, we would no doubt still be in a recession.
      You wish for a type of government for the people that provides free, food, healthcare, housing, retirement, and happiness, at the expense of those you have been taught to hate. Your hate is a blind spot not allowing you to see that if it were not for these, “one percenters” as you call them, you and all your friends would be sitting on the ground out in the cold right now. The principal of having a government for the people is for protection of the right to pursue you own means of providing for yourself. When the government provides all the basic needs, it takes away the impetus to learn how to be an autonomous, self actuated, productive person.
      You have bought into a discrimination based on an arbitrary assignment of character to a group of people who are wealthy. Wealth is no more an indication of a person’s character than a person’s skin color. Recognize that you, as a generation, are being played in a struggle for control over units of capital production for the state, before it’s too late. When you get your way you will be nothing more than the cow giving milk for the state. Yes, you will have your annual checkups and a place to sleep with a ration of food, but at the cost of your free will, and the mental health of your descendants (which are mine as well). Just look at what you ideologies have done to Native Americans living on reservations and minorities living on food stamps in the intercity projects, if you want to see your future going forward with your agenda.

    • Lame Duck says:

      You sir, are an IGNORANT RACIST…SHUT UP!

    • subframer says:

      ____ ___, j-off. older people that have worked hard, been responsible, why the hell shouldn’t they reap the benefits of their life long prudence. and it’s not just “white men”, you racist piece of tripe. progressives and the young, equally dumb, put their hopes in a hyper narcissistic windbag, who says anything, but accomplishes very little (other than drone strikes), all the while claiming “i wasn’t aware”, “i learned yesterday, just as you did.” are you f’ing kidding me? the president of the united states, constantly passing the buck. he’s perfect for people like you, never taking responsibility, waiting for someone to hand them success and security, blaming anyone and everyone but themselves. and back to your racist screed, ____ ___, pal…..

  2. Summer Tyme says:

    Sore loser rationalization.

    All losers make excuses to make themselves feel better.

  3. Congratulations for staying married to a woman who was dumb enough to vote for Obama! I strongly believe in the sacrament of marriage, so I’m glad you are able to hang in there. Having said that, would you kindly smack her for me? You know I’m kidding!

    • relevantmatters says:

      Cathlicvoter, thanks for the comment. We need more people like you, blessed with a sense of humor

      M wife voted for Obama because McCain “was too old, might die in office”!

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