Getty
Show Hide image

The winners and losers of the US election

From Elizabeth Warren and memes, to glum Fox News pundits and Paul Ryan's biceps.

Winner: Elizabeth Warren

The bankruptcy law expert, consumer rights advocate, Harvard Law School professor and grandmother defeated incumbent Scott Brown to become the first woman to represent Massachusetts in the Senate. A win for everyone who believes that someone with a huge depth of knowledge and experience should be involved in making laws.

Loser: Todd Akin

Beaten in the Missouri Senate race by incumbent Claire McAskill. Akin was abandoned by his party after he said in August that "if it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down." Actually:

Winner: Tammy Baldwin

Narrowly defeated Republican Tommy Thompson in Wisconsin to become the US's first openly gay senator. After her victory, she said:

I am well aware that I will have the honour to be Wisconsin's first woman US senator... And I am well aware that I will be the first openly gay member of the United States Senate, but I didn't run to make history. I ran to make a difference.

Winner: Colorado and Washington (and, arguably, Mexico)

The two states voted to legalise marijuana - in Colorado it will be available to anyone over the age of 21 and regulated in a similar way to alcohol and tobacco. As the Economist reports, studies show that "Mexico’s traffickers would lose about $1.4 billion of their $2 billion revenues from marijuana" as a result of the legalisation.

Winner: Dan Hodges

The Telegraph and New Statesman pundit Dan Hodges correctly called the election for Obama before anyone else in the British press dared to (at about 2am) thus exorcising the memory of his "David Miliband has won the Labour leadership contest" call in 2010.

The following Twitter exchange sums it up pretty well:

Winner: Nate Silver

The New York Times's resident number-cruncher called every single state correctly. Via @cosentino on Twitter, here's how the actual result and Silver's predictions side by side:

His predictions might be uncanny, but that's because Silver's a probably a witch. (Although we are intrigued to know what happens to him now - does the NYT power him down and put him in a display case in the lobby until the midterms?)

Winner: Mother Jones and Buzzfeed

The magazine Mother Jones and the website Buzzfeed, in their different ways, completely rewrote the book on how to cover an election. Mother Jones's mega-scoop of the 47 per cent video, for instance, or Buzzfeed's article "Donald Trump's Kids Love Killing Animals", just for starters. As Helen wrote in the magazine a few weeks ago:

You may not have heard of Mother Jones, but if you follow American politics, then you’ll have seen the fallout from its scoop. Addressing supporters, the presidential hopeful Mitt Romney said: “There are 47 per cent who are with [Obama], who are dependent on government, who believe they are victims” and who would “vote for him no matter what”. Mother Jones’s Washington bureau chief, David Corn, found the video online and beat the Huffington Post’s Ryan Grim to track down its owner and verify its contents.

It brought more than two million visitors to the magazine’s website in the first 12 hours of the story – double the number it would normally get in a month. Not bad for a tiny, independent magazine that has been declared dead several times – particularly when it was up against the HuffPo, which has the full corporate financial power of AOL behind it.

Loser: Donald Trump

Because he does things like this, and this, and this, and this. We could go on.

Loser: Karl Rove

Got in a fight with Fox News last night after they called Ohio for Obama, calling it "premature". You can understand why he was so upset - he did pour a vast amount of money and effort into supporting Romney...

Loser: Paul Ryan

Not only did Paul Ryan not become vice-president last night, he also now has to live with the fact that this is all he will ever be remembered for (those guns should be illegal!)

Well, that, and not being any good at economics.

Loser: Fox News

Look at the quiet despair on their faces as it became clear that Obama had won:

Loser: Benjamin Netanyahu

Benjamin Netanyahu, who despite putting a brave face on it and congratulating Obama, will surely be annoyed.

Winner: Gay marriage

Maine and Maryland became the first states to approve equal marriage legislation by popular vote. This makes the east coast states the seventh and eighth states to allow same-sex couples to marry, while campaigners are hailing the vote as a turning point in attitudes towards gay people.

Loser: Climate Change

Although it got a reference in Obama's acceptance speech, until Michael Bloomberg's intervention after Hurricane Sandy, the phrase had barely passed the candidates' lips during the campaign.

Loser: The Tea Party

Democrat victories, especially in Senate races (see Elizabeth Warren and Tammy Baldwin, above) have hopefully put the final nail in the coffin of the idea that the GOP needs the Tea Party in order to be electorally successful. Fingers crossed that, after a period of soul-searching, moderate Republicans are able to reassert themselves over candidate selection processes. Although that might be a bit hopeful - the 2010 midterms didn't deliver the Tea Party landslide it was supposed to either, and it didn't seem to dent their confidence one bit...

Winner: Chris Christie

Chris Christie, the governor of New Jersey. His non-partisan and statesman-like handling of the Superstorm Sandy aftermath won him many plaudits, although his praise for Barack Obama endeared him a bit less to his own party - some outlets even went as far as to say Christie had "endorsed" the Democrat candidate. As the GOP licks its wounds, expect much speculation about whether Christie might run his own race in 2016. Especially, as Ezra Klein argues, he's definitely not too fat to be president.

Loser: Janet Daley

Telegraph columnist and blogger Janet Daley, who just at the moment when the world was coming round to the fact that Obama had pretty much got it in the bag, "got off the fence" and called it for Romney:

With hindsight, the fence might have been a safer bet, Janet.

Loser: Tom Calvocoressi

New Statesman Deputy Chief Sub-Editor Tom Calvocoressi. A tiny tiny part of him was hoping Romney might just squeak it, so he could deploy his brilliant pun-headline: "The Mormon Conquest".

Loser: Big Money

In the wake of the Citizens United ruling at the Supreme Court (remember “corporations are people”?), many liberals worried that the election would be “bought” by billionaire donors. But the savvy micro-targeting (and sheer gusto) of Obama’s money-raising machine proved them wrong.

Winner: Stephen Colbert

This isn’t the last we’ll hear about Super PACs – the “political action committees” set up to fund candidates “independently” of them – so it’s a good time to learn what they are. Comedy Central’s Stephen Colbert has been trying to edutain people about them all election, setting up his own. Its slogan is Making A Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow.

Here's a video explaining them:

And here's a picture of him in a fetching jumpsuit:

Loser: Meatloaf

There wasn't a dry eye in the house when Meatloaf joined Mitt Romney on stage. Nor an unclenched buttock:

THE END.

Caroline Crampton is assistant editor of the New Statesman. She writes a weekly podcast column.

Helen Lewis is deputy editor of the New Statesman. She has presented BBC Radio 4’s Week in Westminster and is a regular panellist on BBC1’s Sunday Politics.

Getty
Show Hide image

Air pollution: 5 steps to vanquishing an invisible killer

A new report looks at the economics of air pollution. 

110, 150, 520... These chilling statistics are the number of deaths attributable to particulate air pollution for the cities of Southampton, Nottingham and Birmingham in 2010 respectively. Or how about 40,000 - that is the total number of UK deaths per year that are attributable the combined effects of particulate matter (PM2.5) and Nitrogen Oxides (NOx).

This situation sucks, to say the very least. But while there are no dramatic images to stir up action, these deaths are preventable and we know their cause. Road traffic is the worst culprit. Traffic is responsible for 80 per cent of NOx on high pollution roads, with diesel engines contributing the bulk of the problem.

Now a new report by ResPublica has compiled a list of ways that city councils around the UK can help. The report argues that: “The onus is on cities to create plans that can meet the health and economic challenge within a short time-frame, and identify what they need from national government to do so.”

This is a diplomatic way of saying that current government action on the subject does not go far enough – and that cities must help prod them into gear. That includes poking holes in the government’s proposed plans for new “Clean Air Zones”.

Here are just five of the ways the report suggests letting the light in and the pollution out:

1. Clean up the draft Clean Air Zones framework

Last October, the government set out its draft plans for new Clean Air Zones in the UK’s five most polluted cities, Birmingham, Derby, Leeds, Nottingham and Southampton (excluding London - where other plans are afoot). These zones will charge “polluting” vehicles to enter and can be implemented with varying levels of intensity, with three options that include cars and one that does not.

But the report argues that there is still too much potential for polluters to play dirty with the rules. Car-charging zones must be mandatory for all cities that breach the current EU standards, the report argues (not just the suggested five). Otherwise national operators who own fleets of vehicles could simply relocate outdated buses or taxis to places where they don’t have to pay.  

Different vehicles should fall under the same rules, the report added. Otherwise, taking your car rather than the bus could suddenly seem like the cost-saving option.

2. Vouchers to vouch-safe the project’s success

The government is exploring a scrappage scheme for diesel cars, to help get the worst and oldest polluting vehicles off the road. But as the report points out, blanket scrappage could simply put a whole load of new fossil-fuel cars on the road.

Instead, ResPublica suggests using the revenue from the Clean Air Zone charges, plus hiked vehicle registration fees, to create “Pollution Reduction Vouchers”.

Low-income households with older cars, that would be liable to charging, could then use the vouchers to help secure alternative transport, buy a new and compliant car, or retrofit their existing vehicle with new technology.

3. Extend Vehicle Excise Duty

Vehicle Excise Duty is currently only tiered by how much CO2 pollution a car creates for the first year. After that it becomes a flat rate for all cars under £40,000. The report suggests changing this so that the most polluting vehicles for CO2, NOx and PM2.5 continue to pay higher rates throughout their life span.

For ClientEarth CEO James Thornton, changes to vehicle excise duty are key to moving people onto cleaner modes of transport: “We need a network of clean air zones to keep the most polluting diesel vehicles from the most polluted parts of our towns and cities and incentives such as a targeted scrappage scheme and changes to vehicle excise duty to move people onto cleaner modes of transport.”

4. Repurposed car parks

You would think city bosses would want less cars in the centre of town. But while less cars is good news for oxygen-breathers, it is bad news for city budgets reliant on parking charges. But using car parks to tap into new revenue from property development and joint ventures could help cities reverse this thinking.

5. Prioritise public awareness

Charge zones can be understandably unpopular. In 2008, a referendum in Manchester defeated the idea of congestion charging. So a big effort is needed to raise public awareness of the health crisis our roads have caused. Metro mayors should outline pollution plans in their manifestos, the report suggests. And cities can take advantage of their existing assets. For example in London there are plans to use electronics in the Underground to update travellers on the air pollution levels.

***

Change is already in the air. Southampton has used money from the Local Sustainable Travel Fund to run a successful messaging campaign. And in 2011 Nottingham City Council became the first city to implement a Workplace Parking levy – a scheme which has raised £35.3m to help extend its tram system, upgrade the station and purchase electric buses.

But many more “air necessities” are needed before we can forget about pollution’s worry and its strife.  

 

India Bourke is an environment writer and editorial assistant at the New Statesman.