Taking the next steps after the election
It’s a good thing that national elections take place near the end of a year rather than at the beginning of one.
If the election took place at the beginning of a year, half the nation would start out the year angry at the other half.
Instead, the post-election wrap-up feels like a natural part of the end-of-the-year clean-up process. There is just enough time to clean up all of the political signs and analyze the election results before the holidays start.
The country has time to let hard feelings disappear into the winter celebrations. By the time Inauguration Day rolls around at the end of January, everyone should have had plenty of time to agree that yes, President Barack Obama won.
In a big, national election, percentages can be misleading. More than 100 million people cast ballots for president, which means that every percentage point equals more than 1 million people. That’s no small number; that’s a large city-sized difference.
There are several important messages which can be brought forward from this election.
For starters, the infamous “Southern Strategy” is effectively dead. The strategy started out as a reaction to the civil rights movement of the 1960s. In recent years, as anger over equal rights died off, it evolved into an anti-illegal immigration strategy with anticrime and anti-gang elements mixed in as well. The “birther” movement surely owes something to the Southern Strategy as well.
However, America’s demographics are changing. Latinos are voting in larger numbers, and so are Asian Americans and other minority groups.
Neither major political party can afford to ignore Latinos or their concerns — and polls show that Latinos want immigration reform. Looking back at the election campaign, one can easily see that Mitt Romney was caught between trying to attract the Latino voters he needed to win and holding onto the anti-immigrant Tea Party conservatives.
Over the next few years, we can expect the immigration debate to shift away from the hard-edged law enforcement position taken by Arizona.
Of course, we can expect other political shifts as well.
If there is a culture war going on in the United States, the conservative half of the Republican Party is losing. Just look at what happened to Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock.
However, the issue goes beyond just boneheaded, insulting comments about women.
Both Colorado and Washington voted to legalize the recreational use (not restricted to just medical use) of marijuana. It was a mixture of liberals and libertarians who pushed to get marijuana legalized. The voters showed that they preferred to have the freedom to decide for themselves, rather than have government tell them what to do.
Also, for the first time since gay marriage became an issue, voters in three states (Maine, Maryland and Washington) voted to allow gays to wed, while Minnesota voted against a ban on gay marriage.
Public opinion on gay marriage has been slowly shifting over the past decade, with more people now supporting it than opposed. Public opinion on gay rights in general has also shifted. The equal rights argument is winning in the ballot booth and in court. As long as churches maintain the right not to perform ceremonies, the religious argument lacks teeth.
Politicians have a decision to make. Will they continue to push upstream against popular opinion, or will they allow the separation of church and state to rule, as the First Amendment demands?
With the post-election clean-up already well underway, now could be the right time to clean out worn out ideas.
James Fujita is a former GVN news editor. He works as a copy editor for the Visalia Times-Delta in California’s Central Valley. Fujita can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.