Politicians often tell the electorate that this election is the most significant in their lifetimes, that if they don’t vote for or against this or that candidate, that society as they know it is over. There are times when they are right.
When George W. Bush was running for his first term in 2000, I was asked by a small group of fellow employees what I thought of Bush. As a non-citizen, and being relatively new in the country, they no doubt believed that I would answer that I thought he was a fine candidate. I made it quite clear that I believed that he was a fool, and a mistake for the country. Given the record of his eight disastrous years as head kleptocrat, I was correct in my assessment.
The group asked what I thought of Reagan, and I answered in similar terms. Reagan at least, was a likable man, charming to the end, and he managed to work across the aisle with Democrats and Republicans quite successfully. He was an example of a dying breed of Republican, more centrist, relatively moderate in his views. He was still too conservative for my liking, but today, I would vote for him ahead of Bush, Romney or any one of the slate of nefarious villains that infest the Republican ticket.
The disastrous vote by the Supreme Court in 2000 halting recounts in Florida was an ominous precedent that looms large over our electoral process. It was not the people of America that voted for Bush, it was that Supreme Court, and they placed this democracy at grave risk of extinction.
The conservative process that is currently disenfranchising millions of voters across mostly red states is typical of the effort to suppress the vote in those states. Conservatives have never been comfortable with a universal franchise, or what they privately refer to as mob-rule. The Conservative ideology, at its very core, is exclusive, segregationist, misogynist and racist. The Republican Party relies, for the most part, on white men to ensure success at the polls. Republican rallies show a deficit of people of color of either gender; they are more male than female, elderly rather than young, outwardly straight rather than gay, and religiously extreme.
Where liberals want to include as many people as possible in the social Big Tent, conservatives do not. Conservative want to exclude as many as possible, always choosing the most vulnerable in our society to throw under the bus. The list of those conservatives profess to hate grows ever longer the more one speaks to them.
Anyone perceived as weak in some way, especially the poor, the unemployed, pacifists, atheists, women, children, intellectuals, the elderly, gays, or the disabled are fruitful targets. To conservatives, these groups are the effluent of society, the leeches, the welfare moms, those that would drag society down into immorality, moral degradation or appeasement.
It is with these groups in mind that Republicans find interminable ways to restrict the right to vote. Both democrats and Republicans know, through careful social analysis, who is likely to vote based on income, group affiliation like churches, sports groups, occupation, domicile and others, and how a person is likely to vote. Once this is established, Republicans can decide how they can suppress the vote within those groups.
None of this mattered on this historic night. People were angry enough at having their franchise stolen from them, and they came out in hordes to exercise their right to vote despite voter suppression. Despite an extremely tight presidential race, President Obama held the electoral college with more than three hundred electoral college votes, easily beating his Republican challenger. He also looks to win the popular vote, which will give him a clear mandate to continue his ambitious agenda.
The campaign is over, but the fight has only just begun. Congress is deeply unpopular, and congressional conservatives are determined to obstruct the business of the country. It is past time that they need to start to cooperate and admit that the only way to continue as a united country is to compromise and work together with Democrats. This nation cannot take another four years of intransigence from conservatives. We need to work together as a nation to carry out the work that needs to be done.
The president alluded to much of this in his speech to the nation, embracing the entire nation as a people and not as Democrats or Republicans, but as the American people.
Mitch McConnell, Republican leader of the Senate managed to re-introduce partisanship to Congress by saying that the President should not submit his old, unworkable policies to the House, rather he should submit policies that will actually pass the House. In other words, he does not care whether the President got a mandate or not, he will remain intransigent and non-cooperative.
This does not bode well for the future of Congress. Republicans cannot expect Democrats to concede the battlefield to them merely because they refuse to cooperate. It is time for Republicans to move beyond their obstructionism and work for the nation and not for their own selfish desires. If Republicans do not work with Democrats, they will be punished in the next election cycle.
My wife was speaking to an elderly woman in Wal-Mart before the election results came in. This woman is losing her home to foreclosure, she is living on food stamps, and she cannot afford to work because she cannot afford a car. She was almost desperate as she told my wife that Obama had to win, for the sake of the Middle Class. This poor woman, despite her desperate situation, was worried about who her President might be. It is women like this one that are the heart and soul of this nation, the poor, the less privileged, minorities, the vulnerable. That is what this nation should be about, not the selfishness that permeates too much of our national debate.
This nation showed that it is still the most democratic nation on Earth to whom other nations look as a model. There is much wrong with this democratic model, least of all the hyper-partisan ideology that splits the nation and the Congress. It is time to change that dynamic, to move to a model built on consensus and not bitter recrimination and ideological stalemate.
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