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Archive for November, 2012

The Mom Vivant / The Psychology of Moderates

By Jason Marsh | November 7, 2012 | 7 comments

How can both parties work together after President Obama’s re-election? Psychologist Jonathan Haidt offers some hard advice for liberals and conservatives.

Obama won. Romney lost. Now what?

Now, of course, begins the hard work of actually tackling the country’s many social and economic problems—a task made even harder by intense partisanship. How can liberals and conservatives respond to climate change and fix the economy when it doesn’t even seem like they can have a civil conversation?

Jonathan HaidtJonathan Haidt

To get at an answer, we turned to moral psychologistJonathan Haidt. For years, Haidt, the Thomas Cooley Professor of Ethical Leadership at the New York University Stern School of Business, has studied the psychological bases of our moral and political views. He has been especially interested in why morality varies across cultures—and even within the same country. This interest has led him to consider whether ideological differences between liberals and conservatives in the United States reflect deeper psychological differences between them.

Through studies with tens of thousands of people, Haidt and his colleagues have identified six distinct “moral foundations” that underlie the moral and political judgments people make around the world. And, sure enough, Haidt and his colleagues have concluded that liberals and conservatives build their political views off of these foundations in different ways.

Liberals, studies show, place greater value on the moral foundations of care for others and fairness; conservatives, on the other hand, care more than liberals about the moral foundations of group loyalty, respect for authority, and “sanctity,” meaning an aversion to unpure or disgusting things. (Both groups rely on the foundation of liberty, though in different ways.)

So does this simply mean that liberals are from Mars and conservatives are from Venus, doomed to conflict and misunderstanding? Not necessarily. Along with highlighting our differences, Haidt’s work has also suggested how liberals and conservatives can bridge these differences and learn from each other—ideas he explores in his recent book, The Righteous Mind (and which he also shares in a New York Times op-ed published today).

I spoke with Haidt this morning to get his morning-after-Election-Day analysis of how the country can move forward in the wake of an intensely partisan election year. 

Greater Good: You’ve written extensively about liberals’ and conservatives’ shortcomings in understanding the moral psychology of the other. In light of what you saw this past election year, do you believe liberals and conservatives are getting better or worse at understanding and talking to each other?

Jonathan Haidt: I’d say worse. The survey data on what people think about the other side shows a consistent downward trend. Liberals have always thought negatively about conservatives and vice versa. It wasn’t so bad up to the 1990s, but then it started going down, and it’s actually gotten much worse in the Bush and Obama years. There’s no sign of improvement, and there are plenty of signs that things are getting worse.

GG: Why do you think that is?

JH: It all begins with the purification of the parties. The two political parties were not liberal versus conservative until after Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act, and that started a long process of purification, when the Republican party became all conservative and the Democratic party became all liberals. Once the two parties became pure, then it became much easier to hate the other side because they really were different.

Now, for the first time, the two parties are really different sorts of people with different personalities and different values—it’s not just collections of interest groups, it’s really much more of a clear moral split than it ever was before.

GG: You’ve said before that you think liberals are worse at understanding the moral psychology of conservatives than the other way around. Is there any evidence from this election year that has made you reconsider or feel more certain about that assessment?

More on Jonathan Haidt

Listen to an interview with Haidt as part of Greater Good‘spodcast series.

 

Learn about your own moral foundations at Haidt’s website,www.yourmorals.org.

 

For more on Haidt‘s work, check out his most recent book, The Righteous Mind.

 

JH: No, no sign that it was wrong. The reason why I say that is not that liberals are more narrow-minded. They’re not. They’re slightly better at perspective taking than conservatives in general. But in this case, because conservative morality rests on moral foundations of group loyalty, respect for authority, and sense of sancity—these are three moral foundations that many liberals reject, or just cannot simulate in their own minds.

Jesse Graham, Brian Nosek, and I ran a study testing this, and we didn’t know how it was going to come out. But it really came out clearly that people on the far left were the worst—they could not pretend to be the other side. Moderates and conservatives were the best at pretending to be the other side.

Now what’s happened is that the culture war used to be about loyalty, authority, and sancity, up until the Tea Party. So this lack of understanding really put liberals at a big disadvantage. Now, the culture war has shifted to more economic issues—issues of fairness—and there the problem is not simply that liberals can’t understand what conservatives mean. Put it this way: Now the liberal difficulty of empathizing with conservatives is less of a problem on economic issues than it was on social issues.

GG: For conservatives waking up today to another Obama administration, what advice do you have about how they can communicate their ideals effectively to liberals—to make themselves understood, feel less culturally and politically marginalized, and try to create a less partisan political climate?

JH: Well, I think that the polarization in Washington, at least, has been very asymmetrical. The Democrats went through a period in the 70s and into the 80s where they spun out into left field in a moralistic spiral that made them more blind to reality. But they came back to earth in the 90s.

And now it’s the Republicans turn. The Republicans have spun out into a moralistic spirial that puts them at a disadvantage in understanding reality. And I think they’re going to have to stop that. They’re going to have to have some kind of reform movement. There are vey few Republican moderates left, but until they’re given a voice, I think the Republicans are going to be marginalized, and will deserve their marginalization.

GG: When you refer to a moralistic spiral, what are you referring to specifically?

JH: So a basic principle of morality is that morality “binds and blinds,” and the more a group circles around its sacred value, the blinder it goes. So when the left was circling around civil rights and women’s rights, that made them unable to think about empirical findings—for instance, about sex differences.

The Republicans are now in that kind of crazy moralistic spiral. For example, they’ve got certain economic assumptions that are just false—like, if you give tax breaks to the rich, they will stimulate the economy. That simply is false. But they’re circling around it, and until they give that up, they will neither have their ideas heard nor deserve to have their ideas heard.

GG: You’ve said before that “our righteous minds were designed by evolution to unite us into teams, to divide us against other teams, and then to blind us to the truth.” But of course, who we see as being a member of our “team” can shift over time. What would you like to see the Obama administration do to reduce the divisive feelings between the liberal and conservative teams in the United States today?

JH: First, you have to distinguish between “elite polarization”—what’s happening in Washington and the media—versus “mass polarization,” what’s happening among the people.

Our problem is really elite polarization. Congress is really broken, and it’s in part because the Republicans are so deep into this moralistic circling. Until the Republican party is reformed, it’ll be hard to deal with them.

So what Obama can do is encourage moderates—many in the Republican party are more moderate than they appear. The forces on Congress are such that they have to do things that they don’t really have their heart in.

My advice would be that Obama try bipartisanship once more, but this time, with a very clear, explicit message that this is a time-limited offer—one or two months. If Republicans are willing to join him and contribute some ideas—and they do have some good ideas—and reach a bipartisan compromise, they’re welcome, and he’ll take their ideas seriously. But if they have not done it within the next two months, then he will blame them for the next three-and-three-quarters years for being hyperpartisan when our country needs statesmen.

In other words, what Obama did not do last time was attend to the other side’s BATNA, which stands for Best Alternative to Negotiated Agreement. If you have a good alternative to a negotiated agreement, then you have no need to make a deal. You can hold out for a lock. And last time the Republicans calculated that if they don’t deal, if they don’t compromise, they could make Obama fail. And it did work—they took the House in 2010.

So Obama was a very poor negotiator last time around. But he’s a very smart guy who learns from his mistakes, and I hope he will, this time around, to reduce the Republicans’ BATNA. Then try bipartisanship.

GG: So what about the rest of us, who aren’t the elites? Do you feel that mass polarization is not as pronounced as elite polarization?

JH: It’s not as pronounced. It is pronounced. Some political scientists say it doesn’t exist, but most say it does, and I think they’re right. The public is getting more polarized, but only by a little. So if you look at who calls themselves liberals, conservatives, or moderates, moderates are shrinking, but only by a few percentage points. The general public is getting a little more polarized.

The general public takes its cues in part from the elites. So because the Republicans have been spinning out into this moralistic spiral, the Republican public has as well. But if the Republican party goes through a reformation, as Bill Clinton did with the Democrats, it will go down to the common people, and I think we’ll see some moderation in the people as well.

GG: And do you think it probably will be that kind of top down process? For those who feel like they are sick of polarization and recognize, to a certain extent, that we have common threats that we should collectively act against, is there a way these individuals can bind together or work on their own to have some kind of impact on the political conversation?

JH: In general, many people are sick of the polarization, many people are moderates. But moderates tend to have little influence. They don’t have much political action. So in general, there’s not much moderates can do.

There’s a very good group now called NoLabels.org. All moderates, people of the center-right and center-left in particular, should be flocking to NoLabels.org and joining and supporting it, because I think that’s a real voice for moderation.

It’s not that they’re after moderation, per se. They’re trying to fix Congress, trying to reform Congress. Congress is broken, there are a number of simple fixes that will make it work much better. So I think that’s the best route that people have, is to join NoLabels.org.

NoLabels is at least applying public pressure. Until individual legislators feel pressure to work for solutions rather than partisan advantage, nothing will change.

And about that healthcare reform …

Where is the attribution for this article?

Now comes another big hurdle: making it work.

The election came just 10 days before a critical deadline for states in carrying out the law, and many that were waiting for the outcome must now hustle to comply. Such efforts will coincide with epic negotiations between Mr. Obama and Congress over federal spending and taxes, where the administration will inevitably face pressure to scale back some of the costliest provisions of the law.

Mr. Obama faces crucial choices about strategy that could determine the success of the health care overhaul: Will the administration, for example, try to address the concerns of insurers, employers and some consumer groups who worry that the law’s requirements could increase premiums? Or will it insist on the stringent standards favored by liberal policy advocates inside and outside the government?

But for now — with Democrats retaining control of the Senate and Mitt Romney’s vow to “repeal and replace” the law no longer a threat — supporters are exulting.

“For our district and for our country, the debate on Obamacare is over,” declared Bill Foster, a Democrat elected Tuesday to the House from a suburban Chicago district.

Many supporters feel one of Mr. Obama’s most important tasks will be to step up efforts to promote and explain the law to a public that remains sharply divided and confused about it. In exit polls on Tuesday, nearly half of voters said the law should be either partly or fully repealed.

“There is still a tremendous amount of disinformation out there,” said Jeff Goldsmith, a health industry analyst based in Virginia. “If you actually are going to implement this law, people need to know what’s in it — not just the puppies-and-ice-cream parts, but ‘Here are the broader social changes intended and how they can help you.’ ”

Already, advocacy groups eager for the law to succeed have shifted into a higher gear. One such group, Families USA, held a conference call on Thursday with about 300 advocates around the country to strategize about next steps, said Ronald F. Pollack, the group’s executive director. Enroll America, a sister organization, will hold focus groups next week in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Texas to collect ideas for a public education campaign.

Much depends on the states as they decide in the coming weeks and months whether to build online marketplaces known as insurance exchanges, where individuals and small businesses can shop for health plans, and whether to expand their Medicaid programs to reach many more low-income people.

The clock is ticking on the exchange question in particular: states have until next Friday to decide whether they will build their own exchange or let the federal government run one for them. Some states have asked the administration for more time.

So far, only about 15 states and the District of Columbia have created the framework for exchanges through legislation or executive orders; three others have committed to running exchanges in partnership with the federal government. A number of Republican governors, including those in Arizona, Idaho, New Jersey, Virginia and Tennessee, had said they would decide after the election, giving themselves only a 10-day window before the deadline.

“I would expect that starting today there are a significant number of fascinating conversations going on behind closed doors in state capitols all over America,” said John McDonough, a professor of public health at Harvard who helped draft the law.

With deficit-reduction talks beginning in Washington next week, some observers believe that the law’s most expensive provisions — like federal subsidies to help families with incomes up to 400 percent of the poverty level pay their insurance premiums — could be scaled back in the name of deficit reduction.

“We know folks on the Hill are talking about this already,” said David Smith, an analyst at Leavitt Partners, a consulting firm that advises states on the law. “There are a lot of competing factors, but they have to find the savings and we believe health care will be one of the places where they will go.”

Another target for budget-cutters could be the planned expansion of Medicaid to people with incomes up to 133 percent of the poverty level — a crucial step toward the law’s goal of insuring about 30 million Americans.

 

When the Supreme Court upheld the health care law in June, it ruled that states do not have to participate in the expansion. For those that do, the federal government would pay the full cost for the first three years, starting in 2014, and gradually decrease its share to 90 percent in 2020 and beyond. As part of a deficit-reduction deal, Mr. Smith said, the Obama administration could agree to reduce the federal share.

In the nearer term — perhaps within weeks — the Department of Health and Human Services is expected to issue a torrent of federal regulations and informal guidance to carry out the law. Without these rules, insurance executives said, it is virtually impossible for them to devise the health plans that will be offered in every state through insurance exchanges.

The marketing of those health plans begins in October 2013, for coverage starting Jan. 1, 2014, the date by which the law requires most people to have insurance or pay a tax penalty. But state insurance regulators say they need to start reviewing the new products — for compliance with federal and state laws — much earlier, in the first few months of 2013.

Justine G. Handelman, a vice president of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, said insurers were still waiting for the administration to define “essential health benefits” and provide details of “insurance market reforms” and consumer protections at the heart of the law.

The law says, for example, that rates for older subscribers cannot be more than three times the rates for young adults. But, Ms. Handelman said, the administration has not said how those ratios will be calculated. Will the government compare premiums for a 64-year-old and a 19-year-old? Or will it compare the rates for different age groups — 55 to 64 and 19 to 25, for example?

Although there is no deadline for states to indicate whether they will expand Medicaid, hospitals and other stakeholders are already lobbying the states to do so. Hospitals will see reimbursement rates trimmed under the health care law, and expanding Medicaid would bring new paying customers to help cover their losses.

Some states are worried about the cost, regardless, and have talked about pursuing a partial expansion instead. Whether the Obama administration would allow that is one of the many questions awaiting answers.

While the prospect of repeal appears dead, Professor McDonough predicted that Republicans in Congress would still seek to delay the fulfillment of the law’s major components — the mandate that most Americans carry health insurance by January 2014, for example, and the premium subsidies. That would be “a trap,” he said, because the Senate could theoretically flip to Republican control in November 2014, presenting “a new set of opponents to blockade implementation.”

Brett Graham, a partner at Leavitt Partners, said that he did not think a delay was likely, but that the Obama administration, realizing it may be impossible for many states to be ready by January 2014, might redefine what they need to do by then.

“Part of this is redefining what the expectation is,” he said, “and we fully expect them to do that.”

 

Where do we go from here …

Oh, well. I was hoping for a hanging chad controversy or some other indication that the 2012 election wasn’t truly over. Some fluke by which Romney wins the popular vote and the Electoral College is turned on its head. The truth is it was over fairly early. Far earlier than anyone thought it would be. And as close as Mitt Romney got to the White House, at the end of the day, he never got close enough to the voters to oust President Barack Obama.

I do know I was at the bank yesterday talking to a millennial or young woman in her 20s who had voted for Obama and was voting for Romney. Another gal at the coffee shop said the same thing. Then I went to get my hair done and the stylist, who is gay, told me he won’t ever vote for a Republican as long as they are anti-civil union. He said he just got engaged and that he and a partner want to have a child using a surrogate or in vitro. My little sister, who lives in Virginia and admitted to me that she knew the economy would get better under Romney, voted for Obama because of women’s issues. Folks, if there is a theme here it is that the Republicans are going to have to back off on social issues if they want to stop alienating voters who would otherwise vote for them. I might have voted for Todd Akin because Claire McCaskill was so closely aligned with Obama for much of his tenure but then he made that “legitimate rape” comment and I couldn’t vote in that race at all.

We can’t ignore what needs to happen and I wish I trusted the Democrats to do it. Our country needs to stop in its tracks financially and reassess. We can’t afford the programs we’re creating and we can’t leave the financial legacy we’ve created, a 16-trillion-dollar deficit, to our kids. If there was ever a time that voters might have heard that message, I thought it would surely be the year that we all watch the economy limping along.  People are seriously hurting and yet, the enormity and importance of our financial future seemed to elude them.

We can do better and we will. Voters ultimately came down on the side of healthcare reform and social issues. But I also think they were kind of ticked off at Congressional Republicans who they blamed for much of the partisan bickering. It’s time for moderate Republicans to raise their hands and let their presence be known so that a moderate like the Mitt Romney who ran Massachusetts can get nominated. That Romney would have had a lot of crossover appeal to the socially liberal voters. I don’t blame Romney for changing his mind or for having positions that evolved over time. And I do believe the Romney that ran this race is still the same person but the process has made it too difficult for a reasonable Republican to punch through. And that he wasn’t as concerned about social issues because he was so committed to reversing our economy.

I watched the returns with an interesting group last night. Some wore blue and voted blue; others were red and voted accordingly.

I voted for Romney but I wore maroon. I think it’s where most Americans are and it is going to be in the middle that true progress comes. Now I just hope the Democrats are willing to work with the Republicans and that they don’t view last night’s victory as a reason to keep spending.  And I hope the Republican realize change is afoot and that social issues do not belong on the party’s platform. As the stylist said yesterday, no one is going to vote for a party that hates them.

 

 

Fine Fall Food

From Simplyrecipes.com

Apple and Sausage Pie Recipe

INGREDIENTS

  • basic pie dough recipe, rolled out and lining a 9 or 10-inch pie dish, or 8×8 baking dish, chilled (or one frozen pie crust)
  • 2 large tart Granny Smith apples, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1/2 medium onion, chopped (about half a cup)
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 3 Tbsp butter
  • 3/4 lb sweet Italian sausage (bulk, or removed from casings)
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 cups shredded fontina, provalone, and or asiago cheese
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1/4 cup feta cheese
  • 2 eggs, slightly beaten

METHOD

1 Preheat oven to 425°F. Line the inside of a pie shell with heavy aluminum foil, pressing the dough against the side. Bake for 8 minutes. Remove foil, poke the bottom of the pie crust with the tines of a fork to create air vents. Return crust to oven, bake for an additional 4 minutes, or until the crust just begins to brown. Remove from oven and let cool. Reduce oven temperature to 350°F.

2 Melt butter in a large skillet on medium heat. Add the apples, onions, and sugar, cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 5 minutes. In the last 30 seconds or so, add the garlic and cook until fragrant. Transfer mixture to a separate bowl. Increase the heat to medium high and in the same skillet add the Italian sausage. Cook, stirring only infrequently, until sausage is browned on all sides and is cooked through. Remove from heat. Remove the sausage with a slotted spoon to a dish lined with paper towels to absorb the excess fat.

3 In medium sized bowl, mix together the cheeses and beaten eggs.

4 Place sausage on bottom of pre-baked pie crust. Add the cooked apple onion mixture over the sausage. Pour the cheese egg mixture over the apple mixture and spread it so it evenly covers the pie.

5 Bake at 350°F for 35 to 40 minutes, until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.

Yield: Serves 8.

 

A rejection of the Christian right’s agenda?

Christian Right Failed to Sway Voters on Issues

By 
Published: November 9, 2012
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Christian conservatives, for more than two decades a pivotal force in American politics, are grappling with Election Day results that repudiated their influence and suggested that the cultural tide — especially on gay issues — has shifted against them.

Win Mcnamee/Getty Images

“Those voters turned out, and they voted overwhelmingly against Obama,” said Ralph Reed, founder and chairman of the Faith and Freedom Coalition, of evangelical Christians.

Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, via Associated Press

“The entire moral landscape has changed,” said R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Steve Hebert for The New York Times

“We’re not going away, we just need to recalibrate,” said Bob Vander Plaats, president of the Iowa-based Family Leader.

They are reeling not only from the loss of the presidency, but from what many of them see as a rejection of their agenda. They lost fights againstsame-sex marriage in all four states where it was on the ballot, and saw anti-abortion-rights Senate candidates defeated and two states vote to legalize marijuana for recreational use.

It is not as though they did not put up a fight; they went all out as never before: The Rev. Billy Graham dropped any pretense of nonpartisanship and all but endorsed Mitt Romney for president. Roman Catholic bishops denounced President Obama’s policies as a threat to life, religious liberty and the traditional nuclear family. Ralph Reed’s Faith and Freedom Coalition distributed more voter guides in churches and contacted more homes by mail and phone than ever before.

“Millions of American evangelicals are absolutely shocked by not just the presidential election, but by the entire avalanche of results that came in,” R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, in Louisville, Ky., said in an interview. “It’s not that our message — we think abortion is wrong, we think same-sex marriage is wrong — didn’t get out. It did get out.

“It’s that the entire moral landscape has changed,” he said. “An increasingly secularized America understands our positions, and has rejected them.”

Conservative Christian leaders said that they would intensify their efforts to make their case, but were just beginning to discuss how to proceed. “We’re not going away, we just need to recalibrate,” said Bob Vander Plaats, president and chief executive of The Family Leader, an evangelical organization in Iowa.

The election results are just one indication of larger trends in American religion that Christian conservatives are still digesting, political analysts say. Americans who have no religious affiliation — pollsters call them the “nones” — are now about one-fifth of the population over all, according to a study released last month by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.

The younger generation is even less religious: about one-third of Americans ages 18 to 22 say they are either atheists, agnostics or nothing in particular. Americans who are secular are far more likely to vote for liberal candidates and for same-sex marriage. Seventy percent of those who said they had no religion voted for Mr. Obama, according to exit polls conducted by Edison Research.

“This election signaled the last where a white Christian strategy is workable,” said Robert P. Jones, chief executive of the Public Religion Research Institute, a nonprofit, nonpartisan research and education organization based in Washington.

“Barack Obama’s coalition was less than 4 in 10 white Christian,” Dr. Jones said. “He made up for that with not only overwhelming support from the African-American and Latino community, but also with the support of the religiously unaffiliated.”

In interviews, conservative Christian leaders pointed to other factors that may have blunted their impact in this election: they were outspent by gay rights advocates in the states where marriage was on the ballot; comments on rape by the Senate candidates Todd Akin in Missouri and Richard E. Mourdock in Indiana were ridiculed nationwide and alienated women; and they never trusted Mr. Romney as a reliably conservative voice on social issues.

However, they acknowledge that they are losing ground. The evangelical share of the population is both declining and graying, studies show. Large churches like the Southern Baptist Convention and the Assemblies of God, which have provided an organizing base for the Christian right, are losing members.

“In the long run, this means that the Republican constituency is going to be shrinking on the religious end as well as the ethnic end,” said James L. Guth, a professor of political science at Furman University in Greenville, S.C.

Meanwhile, religious liberals are gradually becoming more visible. Liberal clergy members spoke out in support of same-sex marriage, and one group ran ads praising Mr. Obama’s health care plan for insuring the poor and the sick. In a development that highlighted the diversity within the Catholic Church, the “Nuns on the Bus” drove through the Midwest warning that the budget proposed by Representative Paul D. Ryan, the Republican vice-presidential nominee, would cut the social safety net.

For the Christian right in this election, fervor and turnout were not the problem, many organizers said in interviews. White evangelicals made up 26 percent of the electorate — 3 percent more than in 2004, when they helped to propel President George W. Bush to re-election. During the Republican primaries, some commentators said that Mr. Romney’s Mormon faith would drive away evangelicals, many of whom consider his church a heretical cult.

And yet, in the end, evangelicals voted overwhelmingly for Mr. Romney — even matching the presidential vote of Mormons: 78 percent for Mr. Romney and 21 percent for Mr. Obama, according to exit polls by Edison Research.

“We did our job,” said Mr. Reed, who helped pioneer religious voter mobilization with the Christian Coalition in the 1980s and ’90s, and is now founder and chairman of the Faith and Freedom Coalition. He said that his organization outdid itself this year, putting out 30 million voter guides in 117,000 churches, 24 million mailings to voters in battleground states and 26 million phone calls.

“Those voters turned out, and they voted overwhelmingly against Obama,” Mr. Reed said. “But you can’t be driving in the front of the boat and leaking in the back of the boat, and win the election.

“You can’t just overperform among voters of faith,” he continued. “There’s got to be a strategy for younger voters, unmarried voters, women voters — especially single women — and minorities.”

The Christian right should have a natural inroad with Hispanics. The vast majority of Hispanics are evangelical or Catholic, and many of those are religious conservatives opposed to same-sex marriage and abortion. And yet, the pressing issue of immigrationtrumped religion, and Mr. Obama won the Hispanic vote by 44 percentage points.

“Latino Protestants were almost as inclined to vote for Mr. Obama as their Catholic brethren were,” said Dr. Guth, at Furman, “and that’s certainly a big change, and going the wrong direction as far as Republicans are concerned.”

The election outcome was also sobering news for Catholic bishops, who this year spoke out on politics more forcefully and more explicitly than ever before, some experts said. The bishops and Catholic conservative groups helped lead the fight against same-sex marriage in the four states where that issue was on the ballot. Nationwide, they undertook a campaign that accused Mr. Obama of undermining religious liberty, redoubling their efforts when a provision in the health care overhaul required most employers to provide coverage for contraception.

Despite this, Mr. Obama retained the Catholic vote, 50 to 48 percent, according to exit polls, although his support slipped from four years ago. Also, solid majorities of Catholics supported same-sex marriage, said Dr. Jones, the pollster.

Bishop Jaime Soto of Sacramento, who serves on the bishops’ domestic policy committee, said that the bishops spoke out on many issues, including immigration and poverty, but got news media attention only when they talked about abortion, same-sex marriage and religious liberty. Voters who identify as Catholic but do not attend Mass on Sunday may not have been listening, he said, but Catholics who attend Mass probably “weigh what the church has to say.”

“I think good Catholics can be found across the political spectrum,” Bishop Soto said, “but I do think they wrestle with what the church teaches.”

 
 
 

What’s ahead

By  and 

After nearly three years of legal and political threats that keptPresident Obama’s health care law in a constant state of uncertainty, his re-election on Tuesday all but guarantees that the historic legislation will survive.

Now comes another big hurdle: making it work.

The election came just 10 days before a critical deadline for states in carrying out the law, and many that were waiting for the outcome must now hustle to comply. Such efforts will coincide with epic negotiations between Mr. Obama and Congress over federal spending and taxes, where the administration will inevitably face pressure to scale back some of the costliest provisions of the law.

Mr. Obama faces crucial choices about strategy that could determine the success of the health care overhaul: Will the administration, for example, try to address the concerns of insurers, employers and some consumer groups who worry that the law’s requirements could increase premiums? Or will it insist on the stringent standards favored by liberal policy advocates inside and outside the government?

But for now — with Democrats retaining control of the Senate and Mitt Romney’s vow to “repeal and replace” the law no longer a threat — supporters are exulting.

“For our district and for our country, the debate on Obamacare is over,” declared Bill Foster, a Democrat elected Tuesday to the House from a suburban Chicago district.

Many supporters feel one of Mr. Obama’s most important tasks will be to step up efforts to promote and explain the law to a public that remains sharply divided and confused about it. In exit polls on Tuesday, nearly half of voters said the law should be either partly or fully repealed.

“There is still a tremendous amount of disinformation out there,” said Jeff Goldsmith, a health industry analyst based in Virginia. “If you actually are going to implement this law, people need to know what’s in it — not just the puppies-and-ice-cream parts, but ‘Here are the broader social changes intended and how they can help you.’ ”

Already, advocacy groups eager for the law to succeed have shifted into a higher gear. One such group, Families USA, held a conference call on Thursday with about 300 advocates around the country to strategize about next steps, said Ronald F. Pollack, the group’s executive director. Enroll America, a sister organization, will hold focus groups next week in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Texas to collect ideas for a public education campaign.

Much depends on the states as they decide in the coming weeks and months whether to build online marketplaces known as insurance exchanges, where individuals and small businesses can shop for health plans, and whether to expand their Medicaid programs to reach many more low-income people.

The clock is ticking on the exchange question in particular: states have until next Friday to decide whether they will build their own exchange or let the federal government run one for them. Some states have asked the administration for more time.

So far, only about 15 states and the District of Columbia have created the framework for exchanges through legislation or executive orders; three others have committed to running exchanges in partnership with the federal government. A number of Republican governors, including those in Arizona, Idaho, New Jersey, Virginia and Tennessee, had said they would decide after the election, giving themselves only a 10-day window before the deadline.

“I would expect that starting today there are a significant number of fascinating conversations going on behind closed doors in state capitols all over America,” said John McDonough, a professor of public health at Harvard who helped draft the law.

With deficit-reduction talks beginning in Washington next week, some observers believe that the law’s most expensive provisions — like federal subsidies to help families with incomes up to 400 percent of the poverty level pay their insurance premiums — could be scaled back in the name of deficit reduction.

“We know folks on the Hill are talking about this already,” said David Smith, an analyst at Leavitt Partners, a consulting firm that advises states on the law. “There are a lot of competing factors, but they have to find the savings and we believe health care will be one of the places where they will go.”

 

The Daily Dose

Voter turnout could be lower than in 2008 and 2004 /

Christie was Romney’s first choice

The Imperfect Electoral College

By Washington Post Editorial Board Published: November 3

THIS YEAR, once again, Americans are confronted with the distinct possibility that the winner of a tight presidential race might not be the candidate who received the most votes.

The reason for this, of course, is our electoral college system. It can lead and has led to elections in which the top vote-getter does not prevail, a bizarre result in a country with a deep allegiance to majority rule and “one person, one vote.” George W. Bush governed as the popular-vote loser in his first term as president. This year, some political analysts speculate that President Obama might claim that dubious distinction in his second term. In an election so close, it’s even conceivable that Mitt Romney could win the White House but not the popular vote.

The prospect of different winners in the popular and electoral votes is but one of the system’s imperfections. Only a few swing states, large or small, end up mattering during election season, with the rest ignored. That can distort not only campaigning but policy: This year, both candidates have pandered to the small and declining coal industry, because it matters in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia, and never mind that it is the most dangerous fuel in an era of climate change.

But it’s easier to identify the electoral college’s flaws than to devise a defect-free alternative. Yes, a direct popular vote would be fairer, in principle. Yet it could lead to difficult national vote counts, or a proliferation of fringe and regional candidates, each trying to capture the White House with the largest share of a fractured vote. These problems could be cured by the creation of a national election apparatus and a runoff system. However, France’s recent experience, in which a far-right party has made it to the second round, is not reassuring. There are other possible fixes, but the more complex the change, the less likely that reform would be adopted. Any reform already faces a steep climb in the Senate, since the same small states that benefit from the electoral college would presumably be in a position to block it.

The electoral college is the system the country has — and has had for centuries — an institution that should be adjusted only with extreme care. Meanwhile, if Tuesday’s election produces a split between the popular and the electoral votes, Americans should keep their cool. Both candidates accepted and played by the current rules, byzantine as they are. The popular vote will be a byproduct of a contest in which both sides spent time, energy and money to win the most electoral votes. As in every presidential election since George Washington’s first, the candidate who achieves that constitutionally prescribed goal will be the legitimate president-elect.