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6 Reasons Why the 2012 Election Will Be Considered Historic
Tuesday's election was important for many reasons. Its outcome will certainly benefit millions and millions of people -- both in the United States and around the world. And President Obama's campaign will be remembered as one of the best-run political efforts in the history of American politics.
But beyond the many important short and mid-term consequences, I believe it will likely be remembered as an inflection point in American political history. Here are six reasons why:
1). This election was truly a battle for the soul of America. It presented Americans with the clearest choice in my lifetime between traditional progressive American values -- a vision of a society where we are all in this together on the one hand -- and a vision of a society in which everyone looks out first and foremost for himself alone on the other.
Do we have each other's back? Are we our brothers and sister's keepers? Do we refuse to leave anyone behind? When we give everyone an opportunity to succeed does that make all of us more successful -- or is life and society a zero sum game where one person's success can only be purchased as the expense of another?
Tuesday's election framed up the question of whether we believe all of those values we are taught in Sunday School, or whether we believe that 47 percent of Americans have to be considered victims who cannot be convinced to take responsibility for their lives?
Mitt Romney offered America an opportunity to choose values and leaders that were committed to the radical individualism espoused by his running-mate, Ayn Rand disciple Paul Ryan. America said no.
Instead, Americans chose to move forward in our over 200-year-long quest to create a society where everyone has a fair shot, pays their fair share and plays by the same rules.
2). The right wing viewed this election as a critical opportunity to delegitimize progressive economic policies, return to the trickle down economics that they put in place during the Reagan and Bush Administrations, and abandon the social contract implicit in the New Deal. They failed.
Just four years ago, trickle-down economics suffered a devastating failure. After eight years of promising that tax cuts for the wealthy and deregulating financial markets would bring economic growth and prosperity for everyone, the financial system collapsed and the Bush Administration chalked up the worst record producing private sector jobs in 60 years -- zero net private sector jobs over his entire term.
Obama will now have the opportunity to demonstrate palpably that progressive economic policies are far superior to the trickle down theories that so recently wrecked the economy.
The Great Recession was not just a run of the mill business cycle downturn. Economies take years to recover from recessions that result from catastrophic financial market meltdowns.
Obama's policies, not only prevented a slide into a second Great Depression, they also resulted in a gradual sustained recovery -- 32 months of private sector job growth. But it's been a long slog.
Now, unless the Republican leaders who still control the House precipitate another impasse like the debt-ceiling crisis last year -- the recovery will almost certainly accelerate.
The odds are good that the economic narrative that ultimately won the day in this election will provide future electorates with indisputable proof of the superiority of progressive economic policies by 2012 and 2016.
One of the most painful and misleading political consequences of a Romney election would have been hearing the pundits go on about the "Romney Miracle" as the economy continued to improve in the next two years as a result of the foundation laid by President Obama.
Now that won't happen -- just the opposite.
In fact, the economic choice facing the country was even more extreme than whether or not to return to "trickle-down" economics. In many respects the election became a referendum on the entire progressive political project. The Romney- Ryan budget was a frontal assault on the social contract implicit in the New Deal. In practice, the voters rejected this proposal.
3). America will implement ObamaCare.
The major reason why the Republicans were able to use ObamaCare as an election cudgel in 2010 -- and to a more limited degree this year -- was that it had not yet been fully implemented.
As soon as it is fully up and running, support for ObamaCare will skyrocket -- the same way it did in Massachusetts. The reason is simple. ObamaCare will guarantee that most Americans have access to health insurance regardless of pre-existing conditions, at an affordable price. Once it is implemented, voters will not look kindly on a candidate who wants to take it away.
By 2014 ObamaCare will be revered as a great accomplishment and Republican opposition will be viewed with the same approbation as the GOP's original opposition to Medicare.
4). This election will go down as the final chapter in the right-wing's "culture war." They lost.
The Right made a desperate last ditch attempt to turn the tide in the "culture war" -- on equality for gays and lesbians, on the right of women to control their own bodies, on women's equal status in America's work places and society at large.
They failed. Their positions on rape, contraception and abortion cost them dearly among women. In referenda this fall, the forces favoring marriage equality won in four out of four states.
In the past, the Republicans used the issues of gay rights and reproductive choice as "wedge issues" to divide the Democratic base. Today those issues divide the potential Republican base. It must have been shocking for some Republicans to see video banners saying "Marriage Equality" and "Abortion Rights" displayed across the stage at the Democratic Convention.
The outcome of this election demonstrated that as the millennial generation grows in number in the electorate, it will most likely be impossible for any candidate to win the presidency who wants to take American social policy back to the 1950's.
5). Tuesday's election was a clear rejection of Romney's call to return to a Neo-Con lead foreign policy of go-it-alone recklessness and bluster.
For the next four years, Romney Advisor Dan Senor, former Iraq War spokesman, and other Neo-Cons won't be shaping American foreign policy. Instead the Obama Administration will have another term to build the kind of strong, self-confident, collaborative approach to the world that has so massively improved America's standing among our fellow human beings.
6). This election made it clear that if the Republican Party continues its war on minorities, it is destined for political irrelevancy.
It is no longer possible to be elected President of the United States by depending entirely on the white vote. Forty-five percent of Barack Obama's votes came from minorities -- and especially African Americans and Hispanics.
The white share of the vote dropped from 74 percent in 2008 to 72 percent this year. In presidential politics, demographics are destiny.
It turned out that African-American voters were every bit as enthusiastic about re-electing President Obama as they were about electing him in the first place. He carried African-American voters 96 percent to 4 percent -- and they turned out at the same levels they had in 2008.
And Obama won Hispanic voters by 44 percent -- 72 percent Obama to 28 percent Romney. Clearly the Hispanic vote cost Romney the states of Colorado and Nevada -- and in all likelihood Florida. And if Republicans continue to demonize immigrants in general and Hispanics in particular -- Texas will be next. That would make it statistically impossible for a Republican to take the White House any time in the near future.
The GOP's problem with Hispanics goes well beyond its opposition to immigration reform. Republicans like to delude themselves that many Hispanics are "conservative." While many are very religious and have strong commitments to family, the polling shows that Hispanic voters believe in a society where everyone has each other's back -- a society like a family -- where government plays an integral role.
This election demonstrated beyond the shadow of a doubt that if the GOP's attitude and openness to minorities doesn't change, then it will become increasingly isolated from the diverse mainstream of Americans society.
As the President said in his victory speech, America is exceptional precisely because we have created a diverse nation where people of every background and religion and culture can live together in a tolerant, prosperous society. That's what makes us the shining city on the hill -- the example for the rest of the world.
Most Americans -- and certainly the Millennial Generation -- get that. If the Republican Party fails to get it as well, it will cease to be a major contender for national leadership.
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