Wednesday, November 7, 2012
It's after 2 a.m. I don't have much energy to do anything more than state the obvious. Which is that this election was not just an epic win, but an epochal win as well.
The president gave another soaring acceptance speech, and it began, again, with the claim that tonight's victory was about us, not him. Ordinarily, that's just political palaver -- what a candidate tells the people who supported him. And you know, back in 2008 -- the first time Obama told us this stuff -- I think in some way we didn't want him to mean it. We wanted to think we'd done our part just by electing the guy, and he could take care of the history-making from here on in.
We know where that attitude got us: While Obama delivered on much of his agenda, we watched the rise of the Tea Party. And then came the elections of 2010, where a bunch of pitchfork-waving reactionaries led the country back to the precipice of complete collapse. We got Voter ID, "legitimate rape," ginned-up debt crises, and all the rest.
And we often asked ourselves, "Why doesn't he fight? Why doesn't he take these guys on?" That first presidential debate was so devastating, I think, because it dramatized the listlessness we'd already been faulting him for. It reflected our sneaking suspicion that he wasn't up to the fight the GOP was bringing.
I'll be honest: I'm still not entirely sure he's up to that fight. Among other things, I'm worried he'll concede more than he should in some debt negotiation before the year is out. That he won't do enough on climate change. But what's most reassuring about tonight's outcome, I think, is that it proves we found the willingness to fight within ourselves.
Look around. Voters didn't just allow Democrats to hold onto the White House. Democrats are poised to expand their hold on the Senate -- which pundits all but consigned to Republicans a year ago. And that success is due largely to the success of women candidates like Elizabeth Warren and Tammy Baldwin. Women -- whose dignity and right to autonomy has been insulted by Republicans at almost every turn -- have now turned aside the Republicans' grab at power. And while the GOP will hold onto the House, Democrats have ousted the pernicious Joe Walsh, and are chasing after such global embarrassments as Allen West and Michele Bachmann.
In Pennsylvania, Democrats swept contests for statewide office: US Senate attorney general, auditor general, treasurer. And we did that in the face of chaos sown by a Republican governor and an asinine "Voter ID" law.
And what matters isn't just how many voters pulled the lever, and tipped the scales, toward these causes. It's who those voters were: young, increasingly diverse, socially tolerant ... this is what the future looks like. And the smarter Republicans -- guys like Senator Lindsay Graham and political consultant Mike Murphy -- know it.
In a way, this election feels like a bigger sea change than 2008 did. Four years ago, Democrats didn't need a tidal shift, because the wind was already at their backs. Republicans were, after all, trying to escape the shadow of the single most inept president in modern history. That, coupled with a president whose biography embodied America's best aspirations, offered a Democrats unique opportunity. This year's contest was always going to be a much harder slog. And yet, in the face of a weak economy, election-year shenanigans, and a host of other challenges, Democrats delivered the stinging rebuke they'd long to see their president administer.
I don't think it's going to get easier tomorrow. The dead-enders like Limbaugh and Trump will continue fighting the future, and those who embrace it. They will probably win some battles, and they will do everything they can to prevent progress on global climate change, the single most important issue facing us. But let's remember what happened here tonight. 2008 was about a man. 2012 was about a movement.