Thursday, November 8, 2012
I attended a watch party hosted by the Human Rights Campaign at a bar in Philly with my coworkers and friends, which was great because I love being surrounded by people who agree with me, especially in high-tension situations. It was exciting watching the map get filled up, watching democratic victories in swing states and finally the projected victory for Obama around 11:30. My friend next to me texted his sister, "Ur uterus and my gay ass are safe!" Amen.
This was a stressful election season. If you read my blog or Foxjuice, my GOP-related stress condition over the past few months had become increasingly more evident as more posts included all-caps exclamations and a lot of swearing. For a female college graduate, this has been a stressful time. Will my President care about my health and well-being? Will he endorse my right to make reproductive decisions? Will it be illegal for me to use birth control? Will he endorse the rights of my LGBT friends and family? Will he consider with compassion the rights and lives of immigrants? Will he undo or support decades of humanitarian progress and aid worldwide?
For someone who has been solidly liberal her entire life, who has grown up with privilege and attended liberal schools, who writes feminist analysis of culture for FUN and not for money (if someone wants to pay me to write about this, I will take it), who has diverse friends, and who cares about the rights and well-being of all people, it is hard for me to reckon with the fact that Romney got around 48% of the popular vote.
It is easy to write these people off because I really do not have very many people in my life who are not solidly liberal. The new tumblr White People Mourning Romney is a somewhat gleeful look at Romney supporters crying and looking sad-faced that the US will not have yet another rich white man taking office. The Romney campaign failed for a number of reasons to relate to a broad spectrum of people, and that is why he lost. Over 70% of Latinos voted for Obama, over 70% of Asians voted for Obama, over 90% of Blacks voted for Obama, and over 50% of women voted for Obama. The Romney campaign focused on white voters and that is a huge reason why they failed. Because the United States is not a country monolithically controlled by white people anymore. And when a campaign very clearly does not support the rights or lives or values of women, minorities, and poor people, they just can't win. As my friend Imani told me yesterday, "They said that not enough white people voted for Romney...they're gonna come get your ass HAHAHAH" (my response: "Whatever, I am proud to be a race traitor.")
The election was a victory in a number of other arenas, for Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), the first openly gay Senator, for Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), the first disabled female veteran for the House of Representatives, for Maize Hirono (D-HI), the first Asian-American woman in the Senate, and Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), the first Hindu-American for the House of Representatives. Other Senate victories like Elizabeth Warren in Massachusetts, Claire McCaskill in Missouri (who "legitimately" beat Todd Akin), and Heidi Heitcamp in Nebraska are also very exciting, and there are now more women in the Senate than ever before. And thankfully, as Jezebel said, "Team Rape" lost big time. Candidates who made it clear that they were anti-women for the most part did not do well.
We also got marriage equality voted in in Maine, Maryland, and Washington. As my friend Emma observed, there are few other issues on the ballot that are just so HAPPY. People getting married is really nice! Here's a video of people freaking out in Maine when they find out that marriage equality has passed. I think it's silly that we have to vote to allow people to have rights but I am glad that my state made the right choice!
But it still stands that almost half the population does not necessarily support these things. Take a look at this handy map of electoral college votes in 2012 next to a map of how the US was divided before the civil war.
The most conservative and right-leaning states today are the states that 150 years ago allowed people to own other people. This is definitely not to say that all states that went red are horribly racist and voted on racial lines (although many people did!) but that culture is very hard to change. We live in a country that until around 50 years ago allowed schools to discriminate by race, for water fountains and bathrooms be labeled "black" and "white," and for states to determine whether or not couples could marry if they were interracial. Because of the nature of our political system, certain states moved away from racist practices faster than others. So when some of the most vocal Romney supporters talk about how "scared" they are of the next 4 years, or say stuff like, "We are in a war. We're in a war to save this nation," just... Oh, boy.
Of course, some Republicans have reasonable(ish) reactions, pointing out the need to connect to minorities and immigrants and at least be more active about reaching out to voters who are not a part of their historical demographic. To be successful, they need to move away from the crazy rhetoric and breathy Tea Party cries of socialism and communism. When a large number of people within your party can call Obama "Hitler" and a "communist," then you have some serious problems, many of them stemming from probably a sub-par US History education in 11th grade. And then also a lot of really terrible information from Fox News, which refuses to acknowledge facts and numbers and science. When conservative pundits complain about Obama having the unfair advantage of "playing President" after hurricane Sandy, you have to wonder where their priorities lie. Do they really think that the President of the United States has to "play President?" Do they really think that executive orders to help people affected by a hurricane are campaign-motivated? It's sad.
For the most powerful country in the world, we are a nation divided by ideology. We are a nation that has trouble with the concept that all citizens are created equal, which is supposedly a foundational concept of our nationhood. Whereas a Catholic country like Spain, which was ruled by a fascist dictator until 1975 now has legalized same-sex marriage, the US is slowly coming to terms with this. While most developed countries have had Universal Healthcare for years, the US still is divided on whether or not to adopt a system that has proven health benefits across the world. Many US citizens do not like the idea of taxes being used for welfare and public goods although these things tend to benefit most societies. We are a country that continues to be plagued by great sweeping myths that perpetuate inequality and divide people.
Obama's reelection will not jumpstart the apocalypse. It will not usher the US into a period of racial unity or rainbows either. We live in an imperfect country, and it is fortunate that we have reelected Obama because he will not undo decades of progress. We should be hopeful for the future, but mindful of how easy it is to go backward instead of forward. We're on our fucking way though. Signed, sealed, delivered.