Why This Election Actually Did Matter

Posted: 11/12/2012 in Politics
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Obama Family on Election Night

Every election season, the pundits and campaigns tell us “ERMAHGAD This is totes the mostest important election in history of ever, you guys!” It’s pretty much never true. But this recent on was actually a historic election for a number of reasons.

We’ve hit a tipping point on gay marriage,  the drug war, and race, and the presidential election itself will have resonance on the direction of this country for at least a decade.

First gay marriage and drug war. For the first time gay marriage has passed on the ballot. Gay marriage has been legalized through the courts and then through the legislatures and now on the actual ballot. We have seen majority support for gay marriage in recent years and now we have electoral proof to back up those numbers. We may have seen the last national campaign to oppose gay marriage. There is no turning back. Being pro gay marriage is officially a winning issue and opposing it a losing issue. I have no doubt we’ll see national legalized gay marriage within 10 years. Likely less than that.

In terms of the drug war, two states have legalized marijuana. People have laughed at me when I’ve said over the past few years that we’ll see marijuana legalization in the US in our lifetime. But this is playing out exactly how I thought, in fact it’s moving faster. I thought we’d see a western state (we got two) to legalize it by 2020 and have a number of northeastern states legalize medical marijuana by that same time (Mass. passed it tonight). A majority of Americans support legalized marijuana and a VAST majority support medical marijuana. But the fear was that it wouldn’t show up at the ballot box. Now they have. Taking a hard line on the drug war is no longer a slam dunk politically.

It will be interesting to see how the federal government responds to these new laws. But the conversation on the issue has been forever changed. We will see more politicians and more states willing to take a stance against the drug war and for legalization. We will see national legalization for marijuana in our lifetimes.

Now, for affecting the direction of the nation for the next decade. The economy is improving and over the next 4 years we should see a much larger recovery. Whoever in in office when a nation recovers from a depression/recession tends to reap electoral benefits for the next decade. It validates their agenda and discredits that of their opponents. When the economy recovers with Obama in office, it will validate his economic policy (as well as the rest of his agenda) and make sure that Dems stay in power for the foreseeable future. The Dems didn’t just win this election, they just won the next 2 or 3 presidential elections. This country is swinging left after 40 years of conservative rule and it’s not just because the Senate got significantly more liberal.

If Mitt Romney had won, the improving economy would have been seen as a validation of his policies even though it is a result of Obama’s. Obama would have been seen as a discredited failure. The republicans would have bought themselves another 10 years of power and influence to run wild on a number of other issues as well. (Of course this assumes that he wouldn’t have a disastrous war with Iran or his austerity measures wouldn’t send us into a double dip recession – as they’ve done in Europe).

Finally, this is a tipping point on race because the portion of the electorate that is not white has grown to a point where no candidate will ever be able to win with a solely white coalition ever again. This was the Republicans last election where they could have won solely with white voters. The investment the Democrats made in diversity in 1964 and the investment the Republicans made in racism when they started deploying the southern strategy at the same time, is finally bearing fruit. The Republicans will have to reform and attempt to embrace non-white voters or lose from here on out.

This isn’t an end to racism or anything close, but it is a promise that any coalition that elects a president from here on out will better reflect America than the current neo-confederate coalition the Republicans employ. From now on, any national candidate will have to attempt to win over voters who are not white. That is a good thing.

And all that is incredibly historic without even beginning to mention the first out gay member of the Senate, NH sending an all female caucus to Washington, the Republican rape caucus completely losing out, and a wide range of other amazing victories for the left around the country.

So, needless to say, I’m quite happy and rolling around like a pig in shit in my political science nerdery.

Oh, and quite bit win for math as well. Go Nate Silver!

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