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Paul Thomas is a Weekend Herald columnist

Paul Thomas: Why America ruined the fat cats' party

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Mitt Romney's gone, and the Republicans have lessons to learn

By mid-afternoon on election day, Boston's Logan Airport had run out of room for private jets.

The 80 business jets parked nose to tail belonged to Mitt Romney supporters who had flown in for a victory party. Now that the mess they created last time around had been partially cleaned up, the fat cats and high rollers were gathering to celebrate the restoration of the plutocracy.

There are various ways of interpreting Barack Obama's re-election. One is that Americans baulked at handing the presidency to a front man for the "greed is good" brigade whose disregard for the consequences of their scams precipitated the global financial crisis.

As Obama put it, "They ran the car off the road, we got it out of the ditch, and now they're demanding the keys back".

Another was provided by Fox News blowhard Bill O'Reilly, although it was a snarl of resentment rather than an insight: "Obama wins because it's not a traditional America any more. The white establishment is the minority."

Indeed. One man, one vote was fine until Obama came along and galvanised those non-traditional Americans into exercising their right to vote.

In their unwillingness to face the reality of America's changing demographics, Republicans are behaving like King Canute, the difference being that he knew he couldn't stop the tide coming in.

The GOP's hard line on illegal immigration and spurious voter fraud campaigns directed at minorities put it at odds with what America is becoming and what it has always stood for.

America is a nation of immigrants. The concept of American exceptionalism rests heavily on its historic role as a refuge from poverty and tyranny with the promise of a new beginning with unlimited possibilities.

The Republicans were also at odds with the female gender, at least that large swathe of it which doesn't share their views on abortion and contraception. One expects rape and conception from it to be viewed through the prism of medieval religious fanaticism by al-Qaeda and the Taleban, but not by candidates for high office in the country that purports to lead the developed world.

Perhaps it was a case of voters deciding the Republicans simply didn't deserve the presidency.

One of the most dispiriting aspects of the campaign was reading editorials and columns which endorsed Romney on the basis that only he could overcome Washington gridlock and defuse America's ticking fiscal time-bomb.

That would have amounted to rewarding Republicans for their political hostage-taking of the past two years, the relentless obstructionism intended to create a crisis they could exploit for political gain.

As parents know, rewarding bad behaviour might give you a respite, but long term it's a recipe for disaster.

Where do the Republicans go now? Despite the Tea Party's activism and the media attention it commands, the evidence suggests that Americans are not interested in radical departures from the political mainstream shaped by Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal.

The public didn't buy the portrayal of Obama as an un-American extremist; the Senate candidates who raved about "legitimate rape" and rape pregnancies being "gifts from God" were rejected; Republicans themselves recoiled from loopy fundamentalists such as Rick Santorum and Michele Bachmann.

The move towards the centre starts with traditional, pragmatic conservatives deciding they will no longer kow-tow to the Tea Party and the religious right.

That in turn means facing facts and eschewing denial. We are already hearing that Hurricane Sandy halted the momentum which would otherwise have swept Romney into the White House.

Stats guru Nate Silver, who called the election dead right, said in mid-October that the "Mittmentum" generated by the first presidential debate had peaked and was beginning to recede; even at that high point, Silver's uncannily accurate model still had Obama winning the Electoral College.

The vampiric Neocon pundit Charles Krauthammer emerged from his crypt to insist Obama wouldn't have a mandate because Romney was ahead in the popular vote. Politics 101: they were still voting on the west coast, Obama country.

In 2000, George W. Bush lost the popular vote to Al Gore. After the hanging chads fiasco in Florida, Bush was gifted the presidency by the 5-4 conservative majority on the Supreme Court.

That's what I call not having a mandate. It didn't stop Bush, with Krauthammer as head cheerleader, invading Iraq.

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