I finally gave up and went to bed last night at 3:30 am, having
followed election night as far as my weariness (and wariness) would take me.
Here in Prague we are six hours ahead of New York and nine ahead of the West
Coast, so the outcome was unclear election-wise at that hour. As I closed down my
computer, the map of America was awash in blood-red states falling to Mr.
Romney. I awakened this morning to much the same surprise Harry Truman must
have felt, beating Thomas Dewey in the ’48 election. Pundits are not reliable.
The Chicago Tribune misspoke Truman’s demise with a famous wrong headline, “Dewey
Defeats Truman,” 64 years ago and the bleeding stopped across America while I
slept.
I view this as a watershed victory, without ironic reference in to
Hurricane Sandra. Old white America has finally lost its 236 year grip on the
nation and its politics. It’s a well-earned loss, the nation recently becoming more
ethnically mixed before the very eyes of a heedless old white power structure.
It’s a celebratory loss as well and, after a hundred years singing in the
shower, the unheard finally found their voice at the polls. Blacks and Hispanics
are no longer a tiresome annoyance to the old white men. They are a power,
ignored at the cost of political survival and I don’t limit that circumstance
to Republicans. Democrats were co-conspirators every step of the way.
So it’s a new day in American politics and we have yet to see what
influence that will have on our disfunctional Congress. Partisan politics will
either give-way (and ultimately disappear), or those who fail to assimilate
will be weeded out in coming elections. They know it. Paul Ryan retained his
seat in the House, but he’s a smart and certainly sobered guy whose future
depends on distancing himself from his inevitably narrowing base. So it is with
Blue Dog Democrats and the Republicans who coalesced to stymie the American legislative
process. The American voter wants jobs, a recovered middle class, affordable
health care, more equal voice given to women, an end to Wall Street’s stranglehold
on their economic choices, honest banking and a Congress no longer bribed to
carry water for the corporations. Those wants have become needs. They will have
them. Have them from both sides of the aisle or change the composition of the
aisle to suit the need. This election is not an anomaly, it’s a new and nearly
missed awakening. The fat lady has finally sung.
Personally, I was more impressed by who
re-elected President Obama than the victory itself. Young voters, who were so
disappointed by his first term performance, did not turn away or sit this one
out. Brown and Black America flocked to Obama in breathtaking numbers. Women,
another power that will no longer be taken for granted, showed their strength
at the ballot box. We are not a nation in retreat. “We are” (in the words of Marine
General Oliver Prince Smith) “advancing in a different direction.”
The pundits will have their say, as pundits do and blame the loss or
celebrate the victory for all the wrong reasons. They will claim Hurricane Sandra
or last-minute negative campaigning as the driving force and they will be
wrong. Wrong, because they live and practice their punditry in a closed loop, chattering
among themselves from inside the Beltway in Washington. The zoo no longer
remembers the jungle. The electorate is beyond the Beltway and polling is at
best an unreliable prophet of what is to come.
We may (and likely will) make missteps along the way. It won’t be
smooth and certainly won’t please everyone during the process, not me and not
you. But that’s what watersheds are about and why they are so rare, defined as ‘events
marking a unique or important historical change of course.’ The process many
had begun to believe didn’t matter, suddenly mattered.
The American electorate advanced in a different direction during this
election.