Sunday, November 18, 2012

Assessing the 2012 Presidential Election

Women can be emancipated only when she can take part on a large social scale in production and is engaged in domestic work only to an insignificant degree.
~ Friedrich Engels, The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State

I have not written in a while, mostly because I was waiting to see how the 2012 elections would pan out in the belief that the huge infusion of super PAC cash would have discernable results that could be dissected and bemoaned. Fortunately, the younger, non-white male coalition that elected Barack Obama in 2008 was able to show up again in 2012 and fend off not only the avalanche of rightwing PAC money, but a truly reactionary Republican pairing of CEO arrogance and Ayn Rand misanthropy. Not to mention a slew of patriarchal Christian nutcases running for the U.S. Senate.

The biggest takeaway was that representative democracy triumphed over campaign cash this time, with the exception of extreme gerrymandering of many House of Representative districts to favor Republicans. Much of the Republican defeat could be attributed to what Paul Ryan refers to as the "urban vote" which realistically includes women, young, African-American, Hispanic and Asian voters. Threats of reducing this vote through intimidation and reduction of early voting only served to increase the determination of the targeted voters to turn out and vote, no matter how unnecessarily difficult the process was.

The Tea Party clown car, the juggernut of the 2010 mid-term elections, ran out of gas or more precisely, the gassy old men at the wheel drove it off a cliff. They did this by making the huge mistake of opening their mouths and letting voters, specifically women, know what they thought about the issues that affect them. The comments they made about rape were quite remarkable for being so far out of mainstream thought even in a society that is as domineeringly patriarchal as this one. Indeed,they revealed a belief system rivalling that of a Taliban-like theocracy. Life of the unborn is sacred to the point that rape can be thought of as God's will. The logic behind this thought was quite well lost on the vast majority of voters and they soundly repudiated them, negating hundreds of millions of dollars of rightwing PAC money in the process.

So where do we go from here? It is obvious that the angry, white male vote is not going to carry the day for the Republicans if more than 40 percent of the electorate actually comes out to vote. Will the Republicans adopt a new line to woo other groups besides the mono-color, mono-sex rainbow they currently pander to? Perhaps an even bigger question is will the Democrats actually reward the people who voted for them?

I feel that although the Big Money Republican donors came up mostly empty this election and the demographic tilt is going to increasingly favor the Democrats, the ability of truly democratic principles to take root in this country will continue to be hampered by the rigid confines of our social and economic system. Indeed, the immediate way forward is full of land mines as a "grand compromise for allowing tax cuts on the wealthy to expire may include more sacrifice for the most vulnerable members of society. Women voters, who had a huge role in deciding this election, may not fully reach equality until traditional gender roles are transformed, no matter which political party is at the reigns.

This election could signal a trend away from the type of government that seeks to keep large segments of its population as second class citizens. Many countries in this hemisphere have recently elected champions of the traditionally under-represented majorities. Or it could be an illusion where the hope for a transformational change of conditions proves to be nothing more than a temporary mirage.