On Wednesday, several Harvard professors said that while they reacted to Obama’s victory Tuesday with a level of enthusiasm similar to that in 2008, his win in 2012 was momentous for different reasons.
“Obama’s victory was sweeping, and the Democratic gains in the Senate were surprisingly strong. Young voters turned out at a high rate that many analysts had not expected,” Government and Sociology professor Theda R. Skocpol wrote in an email.
“This election is more important than 2008, because it confirmed the new directions in which American society [and] politics are slowly and fitfully headed—toward a more inclusive country where government opens opportunity for the middle class and for young people,” added Skocpol, who said she voted for Obama.
Government professor Graham T. Allison Jr. ’62 wrote in an email that while he expected Obama to win, this year’s results left him relieved because he had been more confident of victory in 2008.
Philosophy and Public Policy professor Mathias Risse wrote in an email that when Obama won in 2008, he wept “tears of joy.”
Risse said that like many Americans, he has since realized that the nature of American politics made many of Obama’s 2008 campaign promises beyond reach.
“We have...learned that Obama doesn’t walk on water, and it now looks like the popular mandate is unfortunately quite narrow,” Risse wrote. “I hope that this doesn’t mean we are in for several years of bickering between the White House and the House of Representatives.”
For Risse, the Obama victory presents the opportunity to move forward on the issue of climate change.
“I was delighted with how things turned out,” he wrote. “With Obama we have a chance to make progress on climate change, and with Romney we don’t.”
Risse was not the only professor to lay out expectations for policy changes during Obama’s second term.
Regina E. Herzlinger, a professor of business administration who identifies as an independent, said that the 2012 results sent “a clear message” to both parties.
“To the Democrats, the people worry about your ability to better the economy,” Herzlinger wrote in an email. “To the Republicans, the people worry about your hard lines on the issues of personal freedom and immigration.”