Monday, November 12, 2012

Times really are a'changin.

The election is over.  President Obama's margin of victory was accurately predicted by the polls, especially as aggregated by Nate Silver of the Times and other colleagues who do similar work.  So in some respects, the election was not good news for the press and for the pundits.  Given the consistency of the numbers --  they looked the same in September as they ended out in November -- it seems quite clear that the media manufactured much of the "horse race".  Much has been said about the obscene amount of money spent by both sides, but little attention has been accorded to the obvious of putting of ratings above facts.  Nor, aside from the video clips of Karl Rove's meltdown, has there been any serious discussion about the obvious conflict-of-interest in having a major partisan player act as an "independent" commentator.  And "act" is the operative word -- "I'm not really a newsman, but I play one on TV".  Perhaps that's a little harsher and broad brush than it should be, but I think you get my point.

If the pundits lost last Tuesday, so did the religious right who have held this country hostage since the Reagan years.  The hard core of the Republican Party, those people who come out for primaries and have caused so much trouble over the years, no longer represnt an American majority.  For the first time, a combination of women and minorities will outnumber white men in the Democratic House caucus.  That's not a problem for them but a real plus since it both reflects that party's base and where the country is headed, demographically and ideologically.  In contrast, Romney's voter profile this year is of yesterday, where America was, not of today or tomorrow, where it is headed.  The popular vote may have been tighter than the Electoral College, but that too is likely to change especially as  working Americans begin to fully grasp what's in their true self interest.

The lessening influence of the religious right, and I'd suggest of the religious in general, can be seen in how very few victories they had this time around.  As an article in the New York Times reported it wasn't for lack of trying.  A resurrected, but still pathetic, Ralph Reid did his best to sing from the old hymnal, joined by Billy Graham and the Roman Catholic bishops.  Their, especially the church leaders, more open partisanship evidenced a kind of hail Mary desperation.  Those leaving religion behind, as pointed out often in these posts, are on the rise, especially among Millennials.  But perhaps more important, the affiliated just aren't looking to their pastors, priests or rabbis to tell them how to conduct their personal lives, certainly when it comes to who they love and what they do in the privacy of their bedrooms or how they plan their family.

So talk of restricting abortion doesn't play any more the way it used to.  It's not at all clear if the Supreme Court, especially its most conservative members, have gotten that message, but my guess is that they don't really want to be far out of step with the citizenry.  We may have a chance to test that assertion in the months ahead.  

Politicians are still reluctant to use the "s" word on the campaign trail, but 2012 was more of a victory for secularism than we've seen in some time.  Lowering religion's voice probably can be partially attributed to Romney's fear of having his Mormonism being put under the glass.  But in truth most of us are pretty tired of having our political leaders acting like pastor-in-chiefs.  Whether we will soon elect an atheist (or even an admitted agnostic) to high office is hard to say.  But remembering all the fuss made when Barney Frank came out, its interesting and heartening to see how relatively little there is over Tammy Baldwin.  Not only did she win in Wisconsin, she routed one of the most respected Republicans in the state.  A gay senator -- young people don't care about sexual orientation, nor should we.

The 2012 election was historic.  Not  because we elected an African American to the presidency.   Been there, done that.  No it was historic because in providing the first concrete evidence that times have changed and that our politics have taken note.  Will there be more battles ahead, more ugliness?  You can count on it, but all the sound an fury can't hold back the floodwaters.  It's not only citizens of the Big Easy or the Big Apple who should keep that in mind.

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