Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Random Thoughts on the 2012 Elections

Well, November 6th has come and gone - after seeming like election day would never arrive, it now seems like it hardly happened at all! Perhaps that’s because, at the national level, all the sturm und drang of the last two years resulted in virtually no change.  Barack Obama will remain President for four more years, the Democrats control the Senate and the Republicans have a firm hold on the House of Representatives. 

On paper, anyway, not much has changed.

I’ll admit that I’m among those surprised that Mitt Romney didn’t fare better than he did. While I was never quite convinced he would actually win (and, as a Libertarian, I found things to like and to greatly dislike about both parties’ candidates and positions), I certainly looked at all the traditional signs and indicators (particularly the weak economy) and assumed they’d have the same kind of influence they’d had in the past. I totally overlooked the power of demographics and what I now think is a strong wellspring of good will towards the President. At the end of the day, the voting power and turnout of the Democratic Party’s key constituencies was critical, and the economy improved enough to allow people who wanted Obama to succeed to feel good about granting him another term.

I am guardedly optimistic about the next year or two. I’m usually of the opinion that a president and Congress can really only create substantive change in the first year of a term - by the second year, the entire House and much of the Senate is in re-election mode and the third and fourth are dominated by the President’s re-election campaign. Positions become rigid, officials dig in, the media starts playing horse race and gotcha games, and nothing gets done.

Since Obama will have no reelection campaign to distract him, maybe this Congress can tackle real issues in year one and year three - that would be a substantial improvement. Does that mean they actually get serious about debt, deficit and serious budget issues? Probably not...but marginal action is better than no action, right?

And perhaps the Republican Party, rocked not just by their loss at the Presidential level, but also in every swing state and Senatorial election, does a bit of soul-searching and evolves into a movement that can recapture the support of some portion of segments of the population that are currently lost to them (African Americans, Hispanics  single women, young people, gays and lesbians...and on and on).  If the Republicans can’t figure out how to be credible voice on fiscal and economic issues, where there needs to be a hearty and substantive debate, and not simply knee-jerk social issues bigots (as they’re perceived by so many to be), they deserve to wander in the political wilderness for a long time. 

Beyond the national political scene, the election brought some positive moves in the area of marriage and gay rights. The positive results on gay marriage referenda in several states puts an end to the old chestnut that, when put to a vote, people always vote against marriage equality. The tide of history continues to move in the direction of greater acceptance and equality, and that’s a great thing.

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