I needed to get to the polls on Election Day early to avoid the long lines of the late afternoon. Although I got to my polling place 20 minutes before opening, there were already 20 people in line. As more of my neighbors joined the queue, you could not help but notice we were a diverse potpourri of ages, races and orientations.
But there we were, many of us clutching our pre-marked sample ballots, all very conscious that we were part of a larger experience that transcended our differences and divergent opinions. We were part of a tribal experience of transcontinental dimensions.
The polling workers were mostly familiar faces, the under compensated veterans of many elections. The poll opened right on time and we were shepherded through the process with an efficiency that belied the fact that the poll was understaffed.
Given all the last minute punditry, it was really hard to sort through the spin and the fabrications. I really avoided any election coverage for most of the day. I heard a bit on NPR on the drive home from work but it seemed to me that we were in for a long night.
Allegra Allison and I drove to Santa Monica for an election-night party hosted by Assembly candidate Richard Bloom. When we got there at 8:30 p.m. folks seemed a bit dazed. It seemed unreal that the election had already had been called in favor of President Obama. We were almost too relieved to celebrate.
The counter-revolution of 2010 brought forth a resurgent Republican Party that proclaimed a goal of destroying the president at any cost. While the "Tea Bag" movement originally described itself as a movement of fiscal conservatives who subscribed to a strict interpretation of the Constitution, it soon degenerated into a reincarnation of the “Know Nothing Party,” rejecting science while embracing xenophobia, racism and bigotry.
The notion that the United States should be a “Christian Republic” reflected incredible ignorance of the history of the early republic and the views of the Founding Fathers. The Republican platform’s position on choice could have been endorsed by the Taliban.
In the wake of his defeat, Mitt Romney was telling well-heeled supporters that President Obama’s victory was the result of “gifts” to grasping constituencies. That ignored the reality of Romney’s own role as the Santa of the hard right, promising all sorts of tax breaks and other goodies to billionaires, coal and oil companies and banks. Indeed, all Romney had to offer the much maligned 47% was a lump of election-year coal. Given that the billionaires who flooded the airwaves with independent expenditure attack ads were acting in their own class interest, why shouldn’t the rest of us do the same?
What was incredible was that the Republican Party actually expected people to vote for them when they had so little to offer. It is hard to believe a party that says the majority should make sacrifices in health care, Social Security and education to reduce the deficit while giving the wealthy huge tax breaks. Adding a trillion dollars to our military budget while cutting taxes was not a rational formula for deficit cutting. Given the Republican's inability to understand math it should be no surprise that Karl Rove and other conservative prognosticators were so wrong on their Election Day predictions.
The timing of super-storm Sandy may have been decisive. It reminded people why we need government. It also made people think that maybe there was something to global warming and that perhaps it is time to stop politicizing science. The Earth is not flat, and women’s bodies cannot tell the difference between legitimate and non-legitimate rape.
Although the Republicans took a beating on Election Day, they still control the House of Representatives and the rabid attacks on U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice over the Benghazi massacre reflect that the hard right is not admitting to defeat. While it is easy to dismiss Romney as the “wrong” candidate for the Republican Party, which of the wing nuts that he defeated in the primaries would have done better in November? Given the Republicans' clear ambivalence about moving toward the political center, we are still a long way toward an era of constructive bipartisanship.
But locally we are pretty ecstatic about the election results. Prop. 30 passed, which means huge cuts to the K-through-12 school year and crippling tuition hikes for our colleges and universities can be avoided.
The Democrats captured six congressional seats, and California is sending its first openly gay Congress member to Washington. Mark Takano of the Inland Empire will bring both intelligence and moderation to our congressional delegation. You don’t get elected as an openly gay man in his neck of the woods without being able to appeal to the political center.
President Obama’s endorsement of same-gender marriage was in many ways a turning point in the campaign. It signaled that the Democrats recognized the issue was not only important to the LBGT community and our families but also to young voters who just don’t get what all the fuss is about. Rather than tying himself to the past, Obama put his faith in the future of this country, a lesson that Republicans would be well advised to study.
The incredible fact that same-gender marriage was enacted by direct vote of the people in Maine, Maryland and Washington state, represents a watershed event in the history of LBGT rights. If the Supreme Court does not uphold the California decision to provide freedom to marry, you can be sure that next year we will be collecting signatures to put same-gender marriage on the ballot.
In 2000 I was the first member of the West Hollywood City Council and one of the first elected officials in the nation to come out in favor of same-gender marriage. An op-ed I wrote in Frontiers garnered national attention. But I was excoriated by the leadership of Stonewall Democratic Club for taking a position that would be “divisive” to our community. Marriage equality was still something of a political orphan in the gay community until San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsome started issuing marriage licenses in 2004.
The prominence of the marriage issue in the 2012 national debate as a positive motivator rather than an issue to avoid was a wonderful validation of West Hollywood’s progressive values. We should all be proud of our role in impacting the national debate.