President Obama won reelection largely because of an economic populist appeal, especially to crucial white working-class voters in battleground states, as I described here. The message got through: an MSNBC exit poll showed that 53 percent of voters thought that Romney favored the rich (as opposed to the middle class or poor) and only 10 percent thought that of Obama.
U.S. politics are getting a bit more like South America’s in other ways, as the right-wing media creates and maintains a bubble world for Republicans. A big difference though is that the “bubble media” in South America, in most countries, is much bigger and more influential in countries like Argentina, Bolivia, Ecuador, and even Brazil. Paul Krugman and others have commented on the expansion of right-wing bubble influence here, e.g. how the right-wing media questioned the aggregation of polling data (e.g. by Nate Silver), which turned out to be extremely accurate; and also attacked the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics for its September unemployment report.
But the economic populism of Obama’s successful campaign was really the big story that most of the pundits seem to have missed (other than right-wingers accusing him of class warfare). Most pundits didn’t notice how unprecedented this is for the U.S. : no prior presidential nominee in at least the past half-century had anywhere near as much an economic populist campaign as Obama’s. It was also vastly different from his own general election campaign in 2008. Part of this is because the country has changed in recent years: the long-term failure of our own neoliberalism finally provoked a turning point in the 2006 and 2008 elections. This is another similarity to South America, which moved left after its longest period of economic failure in more than a century (1980 – 2003). Our economic failure was different, in that it was not so much a collapse of economic growth as in South America, but a massive upward redistribution of income. But it was a colossal setback for the majority of Americans, who joined their counterparts from the South in a revolt at the ballot box. And then the Occupy movement put the issue of income and wealth inequality on the political agenda as it has not been since the Great Depression.
Another difference: South Americans (in Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Ecuador, Venezuela, and Uruguay) got more changes for their votes than we have so far. That will take a bit longer.