The ten best US election stats

Including, how the Democrats have won the popular vote in five of the last six elections.

1. Barack Obama is the first US President since Franklin D. Roosevelt to win re-election with unemployment above 7.2 per cent. The jobless rate is currently 7.9 per cent, 0.7 per cent higher than the rate when Ronald Reagan won a second term in 1984. Roosevelt secured re-election in 1936 with unemployment at 16.6 per cent.

2. Based on exit polls, Obama won 93 per cent of the black vote, 73 per cent of the Asian vote, 71 per cent of the Hispanic vote and 39 per cent of the white vote. Nate Silver notes that "forty-five percent of those who voted for Mr. Obama were racial minorities, a record number".

3. Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan are the first presidential ticket to lose both candidates' home states (Massachusetts and Wisconsin) since 1972 Democrat candidates George McGovern (South Dakota) and Sargent Shriver (Maryland).

4. Defying conservative predictions that he would win the Electoral College but lose the popular vote, Obama currently has 58,532,508 votes (50.2 per cent) to Romney's 56,353,802 (48.2 per cent).

5. Obama's re-election marks the first time the US has had three two-term presidencies in a row since Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and James Monroe.

6. As the Democrats quipped, "we've got ballots full of women". It was the female half of the US population that secured Obama's re-election, voting by 55 per cent to 44 per cent for the US president. Men, by contrast, voted for Romney by 52 per cent to 45 per cent.

7. The Democrats have won the popular vote in five of the last six presidential elections (1992, 1996, 2000, 2008 and 2012). Al Gore won the popular vote against George W. Bush in 2000 by 543,895 (0.5 per cent) but lost the Electoral College to Bush by five votes (271 to 266).

8. Obama polled strongest among 18-29-year-olds (60 per cent), whilist Romney polled strongest among the over-65s (56 per cent).

9. Fifty six per cent of self-described "moderates" voted for Obama along with 86 per cent of liberals. Eighty two per cent of conservatives voted for Romney.

10. Obama's victory tweet - "Four more years" - has had 563,281 retweets and 189,641 favourites, making it the most popular tweet ever.

Barack Obama and family arrive on stage in Chicago, Illinois. Photograph: Getty Images.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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Junior doctors’ strikes: the greatest union failure in a generation

The first wave of junior doctor contract impositions began this week. Here’s how the BMA union failed junior doctors.

In Robert Tressell’s novel, The Ragged-Trousered Philanthropists, the author ridicules the notion of work as a virtuous end per se:

“And when you are all dragging out a miserable existence, gasping for breath or dying for want of air, if one of your number suggests smashing a hole in the side of one of the gasometers, you will all fall upon him in the name of law and order.”

Tressell’s characters are subdued and eroded by the daily disgraces of working life; casualised labour, poor working conditions, debt and poverty.

Although the Junior Doctors’ dispute is a far cry from the Edwardian working-poor, the eruption of fervour from Junior Doctors during the dispute channelled similar overtones of dire working standards, systemic abuse, and a spiralling accrual of discontent at the notion of “noble” work as a reward in itself. 

While the days of union activity precipitating governmental collapse are long over, the BMA (British Medical Association) mandate for industrial action occurred in a favourable context that the trade union movement has not witnessed in decades. 

Not only did members vote overwhelmingly for industrial action with the confidence of a wider public, but as a representative of an ostensibly middle-class profession with an irreplaceable skillset, the BMA had the necessary cultural capital to make its case regularly in media print and TV – a privilege routinely denied to almost all other striking workers.

Even the Labour party, which displays parliamentary reluctance in supporting outright strike action, had key members of the leadership join protests in a spectacle inconceivable just a few years earlier under the leadership of “Red Ed”.

Despite these advantageous circumstances, the first wave of contract impositions began this week. The great failures of the BMA are entirely self-inflicted: its deference to conservative narratives, an overestimation of its own method, and woeful ignorance of the difference between a trade dispute and moralising conundrums.

These right-wing discourses have assumed various metamorphoses, but at their core rest charges of immorality and betrayal – to themselves, to the profession, and ultimately to the country. These narratives have been successfully deployed since as far back as the First World War to delegitimise strikes as immoral and “un-British” – something that has remarkably haunted mainstream left-wing and union politics for over 100 years.

Unfortunately, the BMA has inherited this doubt and suspicion. Tellingly, a direct missive from the state machinery that the BMA was “trying to topple the government” helped reinforce the same historic fears of betrayal and unpatriotic behaviour that somehow crossed a sentient threshold.

Often this led to abstract and cynical theorising such as whether doctors would return to work in the face of fantastical terrorist attacks, distracting the BMA from the trade dispute at hand.

In time, with much complicity from the BMA, direct action is slowly substituted for direct inaction with no real purpose and focus ever-shifting from the contract. The health service is superficially lamented as under-resourced and underfunded, yes, but certainly no serious plan or comment on how political factors and ideologies have contributed to its present condition.

There is little to be said by the BMA for how responsibility for welfare provision lay with government rather than individual doctors; virtually nothing on the role of austerity policies; and total silence on how neoliberal policies act as a system of corporate welfare, eliciting government action when in the direct interests of corporatism.

In place of safeguards demanded by the grassroots, there are instead vague quick-fixes. Indeed, there can be no protections for whistleblowers without recourse to definable and tested legal safeguards. There are limited incentives for compliance by employers because of atomised union representation and there can be no exposure of a failing system when workers are treated as passive objects requiring ever-greater regulation.

In many ways, the BMA exists as the archetypal “union for a union’s sake”, whose material and functional interest is largely self-intuitive. The preservation of the union as an entity is an end in itself.

Addressing conflict in a manner consistent with corporate and business frameworks, there remains at all times overarching emphasis on stability (“the BMA is the only union for doctors”), controlled compromise (“this is the best deal we can get”) and appeasement to “greater” interests (“think of the patients”). These are reiterated even when diametrically opposed to its own members or irrelevant to the trade dispute.

With great chutzpah, the BMA often moves from one impasse to the next, framing defeats as somehow in the interests of the membership. Channels of communication between hierarchy and members remain opaque, allowing decisions such as revocation of the democratic mandate for industrial action to be made with frightening informality.

Pointedly, although the BMA often appears to be doing nothing, the hierarchy is in fact continually defining the scope of choice available to members – silence equals facilitation and de facto acceptance of imposition. You don’t get a sense of cumulative unionism ready to inspire its members towards a swift and decisive victory.

The BMA has woefully wasted the potential for direct action. It has encouraged a passive and pessimistic malaise among its remaining membership and presided over the most spectacular failure of union representation in a generation.

Ahmed Wakas Khan is a junior doctor, freelance journalist and editorials lead at The Platform. He tweets @SireAhmed.