In with the New, Out with [some of] the Old
So it's over now, and we have a mix of stunningly good news and saddeningly painful disappointment. Of course, if you've been following the polls, neither Obama's triumphant victory, nor the disheartening passage of Proposition 8, is particularly surprising or unexpected.
What was uncertain was the degree to which Democrats would increase their Congressional majority. And while they've certainly increased it, it looks like the magical filibuster-proof 60-Senate-seat supermajority remains elusive. Oh well -- I guess you can't have everything.
And yes, while I am gravely disappointed by the Proposition 8 results, I'm not especially devastated, for three main reasons:
- From the polling, it was pretty much a foregone conclusion. I processed much of my disappointment on the issue over the last few months. By the time results began rolling in, I had already preemptively grieved the loss.
- Social momentum is in our favor. Although we lost this round, such a narrow margin of defeat on this issue would not have been attainable even a few short years ago. Times are changing. More of the world has embraced same-sex marriage. Younger voters overwhelmingly voted against Proposition 8. It's "the last socially acceptable form of oppression," and it's dying a slow death, but that death is inexorable and inevitable.
- And on a darker note, I personally don't have much faith in the ability of the voting public to put fair-minded, reasoned thought above red-herring, irrational appeals to sentimentality and nostalgia (which is really what the whole "tradition" argument against gay marriage comes down to). When you have low expectations, it's harder to be disappointed. Maybe I'm cynical in this regard, but I think I'm simply being realistic.
What really blows my mind, however, is the tone and severity of the backlash we're already seeing against the Obama victory. Maybe it's just people's knee-jerk bitterness, but some of the comments posted online reflect a startling magnitude of ignorance and bias. The scariest example I've seen so far was from an article posted on Gay.com, of all places.
Yes, I know, people delight in parroting the old platitude about "just because you're gay doesn't mean you have to be liberal/democrat"; but in all my foolish naivety, I somehow would expect that somebody who has endured one of the most insidious and painful forms of social oppression (coming to terms with being -- and coming out as -- gay) might learn to think more progressively in general. In other words, I am not being even remotely a "single-issue gay voter" when I express surprise over gays supporting the right-wing agenda; I would expect coming out as gay to trigger a generalized sociopolitical catharsis.
After reading that one particular article and the flood of bitter comments, I had to weigh in:
The only thing I'd change about Obama would be to have him openly support gay marriage. However, it's obvious that he had to come out against gay marriage, because otherwise with the USA where it is today, ideologically, he would have torpedoed his campaign. He had to sell out on that front to get elected. It's almost forgivable.
Otherwise, all I can think is that finally we have a chance for this long national nightmare to come to an end, with a new president who truly embodies progressive ideals, and will move us away from the disastrous trends of a dictatorial executive branch, scaled-back civil liberties, reckless deregulation, and hotheaded imperialism.
It's funny how people keep tossing around this whole "socialist" thing, even though Obama is by no means a socialist. He just appears socialist when compared side-by-side with the extreme reactionary right-wing free-market screw-the-poor-and-less-fortunate ideologues who have held this country in a stranglehold for the past 28 years.
Besides, I thought we'd be over this "socialism fearmongering" by now. Wasn't that just a relic of the anti-communist cold war? Honestly, what's so bad about a sociopolitical philosophy that actually believes in looking after society's least fortunate? Most western nations have far more socialist policies in place than the USA (even Canada, our closest neighbor, both literally and ideologically), and we are the ones who come out looking backwards by comparison. Don't worry, you'll still be able to be greedy and rich if you have the right ambitions/connections and get lucky. It's not going to become a totalitarian state now (in fact, probably much less so once Bush and Cheney are out of office). The only difference is the uber-rich might actually have to pay their fair share, and, e.g., everybody might actually end up with access to quality, affordable healthcare. (I know, such a revolutionary thought.)
I'm just relieved beyond belief that I may finally no longer have to be embarrassed for my government -- a government which, for far too long, has been taking a gigantic, steaming crap on the poor and unfortunate, on the environment, on scarce resources, and on the rest of the world in general. If Obama lives up to his promises, we can finally move on from that.
All things considered, this Election Day was almost surreal. My polling place was directly downstairs in a vacant storefront suite on the other side of the building that I live in -- probably the only time in my life that I'll ever be able to say that. Every time I went by over the course of the day, it was practically empty; and when I made it down to vote around 5:00 (I needed some extra time to finish reading about a few of the other propositions), I got in and out in no time. When I read later about the multi-hour polling lines in some parts of the country, I felt as though I'd somehow voted in the twilight zone.
Then I came home and watched the returns roll in via a combination of a repeatedly reloaded CNN.com (the tech geek in me was wondering how profoundly they have to beef up their data center for this), and CNN's streaming video. I watched by myself, yet stayed connected via AOL IM. It wasn't unlike my experience four years ago, only this time, it's a much different story.
I'm not naively optimistic enough to think this is the beginning of the end of all our national ills; but I am sincerely willing to entertain the thought that this truly could have been the most significant election of my lifetime. The rest, we'll see in the months and years -- and generations -- to come.