John F. Kennedy famously said that "victory has a thousand fathers, but defeat is an orphan," an adage born out over the last three days as reporters' inboxes have overflowed with e-mails from advocacy groups boasting of their role in Tuesday's sweeping Democratic win.
Unions, Hispanic groups, the Netroots, progressive organizing coalitions, single women, working women, youth, the religious left — to name just a few — all claim to have played a vital role in electing Barack Obama.
And each says he owes them for that role.
Such claims are, of course, an election-year standard. Four years ago, social conservative and anti-tax groups boasted of their role in President Bush's reelection.
Obama's wider margin of victory this year makes it seem as though America — and the Democratic Party — may just be big enough for virtually every group to claim credit and jostle elbows as they push for their respective agendas.
The National Council of La Raza, "the largest national Hispanic and civil rights and advocacy organization in the United States," sent out a statement citing its efforts to register Hispanics and declaring that the 2008 election proved the "Latino vote matters," and that the group was "energized by the urgency of seeing immigration reform enacted."
While exit polls showed Obama performed significantly better with Hispanic voters than John F. Kerry did four years earlier, the president-elect rarely raised immigration reform on the trail. The Democrat's margin seemed in large part the result of John McCain's claim during the primary that he would stress enforcement and would not vote for his own immigration reform bill if it were to be revived.
"Today is one of the brightest days for working people all across our nation," John Sweeney, president of the AFL-CIO, which represents 10 million workers, said on Wednesday. "Voters have delivered a resounding mandate for broad-based economic change."
On Wednesday morning, AFL-CIO Political Director Karen Ackerman claimed that "in the declining [industry] states like Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota, union voters were the firewall that stopped John McCain," repeated something a group spokesman had told Politico last week, changing only the tense.
The National Education Association — whose leaders and members consistently tilt Democratic, as do unions more generally — also rushed to claim a narrow mandate and send a message to Obama, who boasted on the trail of his willingness to take on the teachers' unions. President Dennis Van Roekel threw the brushback pitch, issuing a statement citing the role of its "2 million potential voters in 15 presidential battleground states" and calling the years ahead an "incredible opportunity to begin to correct the failed education policies of the Bush administration."
The youth advocacy group Rock the Vote — which stays strictly nonpartisan — declared that "young people have spoken and elected the next president."
MoveOn.org's political action committee, the powerhouse of Internet progressivism, framed the victory as its own, "the culmination of a decade of work to build a progressive, people-driven politics in America," and emphasized its endorsement and the role of members' donations in funding the campaign.
Women's Voices, Women Vote, a nonpartisan but liberal-leaning single women's political advocacy organization, declared that "unmarried women anchored Obama's victory" in a post-election statement entitled "Single Women Prove Decisive Political Force."
Sojourners, a progressive Christian group, highlighted Obama's support among opponents of abortion rights, a minority position in the Democratic Party. Their statement credited Obama's win to "the leadership of African-American and Latino Christians, with a younger generation of the faithful in white America" who are working for "racial and economic justice, creation care, peacemaking and a more consistent ethic of life."
The Human Rights Campaign, a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender civil rights organization, cited its $7 million "Year to Win" effort "to mobilize 5 million LGBT and allied voters to help elect fair-minded candidates." While they may have elected their candidates, several states passed initiatives curtailing gay rights, most notably California's Proposition 8, which banned gay marriage. The referendum passed by a thin 52-48 margin, with much of that cushion from culturally conservative black voters who turned out in record numbers to back Obama and split 70 percent to 30 percent in favor of the ban.
The National Jewish Democratic Council noted that "American Jewish voters have once again overwhelmingly supported the Democratic presidential nominee" and that "with Obama's victory, we selected a candidate who shares the values of the vast majority of American Jews, including the separation of church and state, a strong U.S.-Israel relationship, and reproductive freedom." Meanwhile the Council on American Islamic Relations issued a statement within minutes of Obama's victory speech celebrating the victory and stating that it looks forward to working with Obama on civil rights and "projecting an accurate image of America in the Muslim world."
Then there are the bottom-liners who know victory is good for business. Yankee Group, a technology consulting firm, sent a statement to reporters Wednesday, citing its network as a "transformational force... in Obama's march to the White House," citing itself, among other things, as the vehicle for Obama's money raised online.
As the groups stake their claims, they've also taken passing shots at others doing the same, as in the Womens Voices, Womens vote statement entitled "WE MADE THE DIFFERENCE," which deemed unmarried women, who exit polls showed voted 74-25 for Obama, a "decisive political force," pointing to the "margin of 12 million votes" they provided for Obama — which, they pointed out, meant "Obama’s margin among unmarried women exceeded his margin among both young voters and Latino voters."
David Paul Kuhn contributed to this story.