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The election: why it was so close and what we expect in the post-election period

Pat Foley

Pat Foley

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Election night was incredible. Not just because Nielsen reported that over 66.8 million people tuned in to see the results of our nation’s 2012 Election, but also, because we saw a dramatic conclusion to what was arguably the most energetic and hard-fought election season of our teenage lifetimes.

Why was this election so close? Well, even the most radical political analyst will tell you that this race was close because of the money aggressively spent by both campaigns. After the 2010 Citizens United Supreme Court case, which allowed for Super PACs (Political Action Committees) to spend unlimited amounts of money on Presidential candidates, we saw just that–what seemed to be unlimited amounts of political money. In total, President Obama and Governor Romney’s Super PACs raised over $1.8 billion dollars. Now, many critics of Citizens United, such as former Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold (yes, the guy that visited our school!), have vehemently criticized these contributions by claiming that they corrupt our politics. I agree with Sen. Feingold, and I fear the precedent we have set by allowing excessive money to be spent on political candidates. But, there is some positive outcome from this great deal of campaign spending. Everyone chipped in during this election season, from wealthy corporations to lower-income families. More people spending money means that more people are getting involved in our democracy. Hopefully, our nation will continue its high level of political involvement–of course, without the corruption.

Even though the Romney and Obama campaigns will not be spending any more money on the election, the partisanship the election stirred will persist. In the 2010 Congressional Elections, the Tea Party energized the conservative base; Republicans secured the House and many of them launched a campaign whose main goal was to attack the policies of President Obama. In this election, the Democratic Party was the one that seemed more energized. President Obama was re-elected, the Senate maintained its Democratic majority, and Republicans lost numerous seats in the House of Representatives. In fact, even here in DuPage County, always noted as a stronghold for the Republican Party, two prominent Democratic candidates emerged victorious: Tammy Duckworth and Bill Foster. Tammy Duckworth (D, Rolling Meadows), the war veteran who spoke at this year’s Democratic National Convention, easily defeated Joe Walsh. Fermi Lab Scientist Bill Foster, who was endorsed by former President Clinton himself, swept our neighbor Judy Biggert 58 to 42 percent, respectively.

Although the Democratic Party emerged victorious in many ways, it was by a very narrow margin. Now,with the election over, but the partisanship remaining, a fiscal cliff looms at the end of the year. The question remains: will our leaders set aside the partisanship and make the tough calls that will deal with our deficit? Or, will we simply fall off the cliff?

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The election: why it was so close and what we expect in the post-election period