Post-election thoughts

Cover of yesterday\'s Chicago Sun Times - Portrait of Obama

The overwhelming emotion for me so far has been relief. The polls may have painted a bleak picture John McCain, but after these last eight years I’ve learned never to underestimate the power of prejudice and fear. And let’s be honest, I know McCain gave a great concession speech, but his campaign lived and breathed fear of Obama.

So, I’m relieved. Relieved that the United States of America could make the connection between the Bush policies they rejected, and nearly the same policies when offered up by John McCain.

Obama could be a disappointment. From what I could see on TV last night and from what I’ve heard from my friends, expectations for Obama are in the stratosphere. The truth is that no matter what kind of mandate you think he has, changing this country in significant ways wont be easy.

Our system of government is designed to obstruct swift change. Although, perhaps the imperial powers vested in the presidency by Bush and Cheney could help Obama in that regard. But my wish would be for him to restore the presidency to its Constitutional status as a coequal branch, rather than the pseudo-dictatorship we have now … nevertheless, I won’t hold my breath on that one.

Obama dissillusioned me when he voted for telecom immunity and greater spying powers for the the executive branch in contradiction to his previous promises. I suppose that’s why my expectations for him aren’t in the stratosphere. But I’m willing to jump back on the bandwagon if he starts delivering on the promises he made during his early primary run.

If Obama manages to move us closer to universal health coverage, withdraws our forces from Iraq, and ends the torture regime, I’ll be ecstatic. The latter two he can accomplish without a peep from Congress or Republicans, and therefore Obama should move on them right away.

We shouldn’t forget that George Bush made Obama possible. If Bush weren’t such a spectacular failure, could you imagine Barack Obama overcoming the prejudices still prevalent in older segments of our population? Obviously that’s ahistorical conjecture, but it seems right to me.

George Bush made me ashamed to be an American and he embarrassed me whenever he spoke on our country’s behalf. When Obama spoke after his victory, it was so refreshing to feel respect for our leader again. And you know what? Obama may be smart, but I’d much rather have a beer with him than George Bush.

Finally, I’d like to touch on some of the other contests decided in this election. I’m disappointed that Republicans Ted Stevens (recently convicted of seven felonies) and Michelle Bachmann (who called for a McCarthyist witchhunt against traitors in Congress) were reelected. On the Democratic side I’m bummed that Jack Murtha (the king of unnessecary military pork spending) and Chris Carney (staunch supporter of telecom immunity) maintained their seats in Congress.

But my feelings about those races are dwarfed by the disgust I feel over the success of anti-gay marriage ballot initiatives across the country. Would it really hurt any of these people to let gay people get married? Will you somehow look at your own marriage differently? I wish they would just keep their bigotry to themselves.

And that’s it. I think I’m going to take a break on Friday, so the next post from me should be on Monday morning. Everyone have a great weekend and feel free to discuss any news you want in the comments for this post.

8 Comments

  1. Ian

    I think what bothers me most about the current media coverage is everyone patting themselves on the back for electing an African American president. Like because of Obama, NOW anyone really could be president. I think its important to keep it in perspective. We NEVER should have had our society be such that electing an African American president would be an accomplishment. You don’t get a reward for finally living up to what you say you are. Its like an alcoholic, who for years claimed they weren’t an alcoholic but everyone secretly knew they were, finally stopping drinking and then everyone is supposed to pat them on the back for ceasing being something they never should’ve been in the first place. I find it depressing that this is seen as a super awesome thing. I personally voted for Obama because of his policies, his temperament, and his intelligence. I was ecstatic about Obama getting elected because it restored my faith in this country. Not because we could now elect someone of any skin color, but because the majority of Americans recognized that we needed a major shift in the way we think about the world and how we approach problems. That we could actually focus through to the actual problems facing us as a nation (and a world), and ignore stupid divisive tactics like “Socialism!” “Terrorist!” and “Muslim!”. But no, the big story in this election has to be the color of Obama’s skin and whether or not we are racist anymore. All you need to know about our nation’s open-mindedness could be summed up with the answer to this question: “Could a Muslim be elected president at this point in time?”

    I was disappointed with how many people still didn’t vote for what I personally thought was a night and day choice between candidates. I also have been brought back down to earth with my opinions about the people of this nation by the decision about gay marriage in California. To go along with this decision, Californians also voted to bass a proposition protecting the comfort of FARM ANIMALS (http://www.voterguide.sos.ca.gov/title-sum/prop2-title-sum.htm). That’s right, the rights of farm animals were deemed more important than the rights of human beings according to Californians.

  2. Chris

    Personally, I’m happy that California passed the farm animal law, even if they decided to collectively strip the rights of homosexual couples. There should be a level of cruelty we don’t cross, even with animals we “consume.”

    I’d also echo your disappointment about just how much support McCain received. I personally thought that the Palin pick made him unelectable. Can she give a press conference now? How about those medical records?

    As for the issue of prejudice, I can’t imagine our country electing any non-Christian or someone who looks Asian. But it is progress that women and African Americans can seek the highest office in the land.

  3. Ian

    I don’t really mind them passing the farm animal law, but it looks absurd to me next to the banning of gay marriage. How the same people can think “OK I care about cows and pigs” but then say “Oh, but not gays,” is beyond me. It sounds cruel, but I don’t need to feel good about how the animals I eat are treated. They’re being killed for my sustenance and enjoyment at dinner, I don’t think much is going to sooth my conscience about that. I don’t think they should be tortured or anything, but honestly that would take too much effort anyways. I would prefer that we take steps to minimize the impact of raising livestock on the environment before we pass laws about their comfort. That’s not to say there shouldn’t be some standards regarding livestock treatment. I mean, you don’t want the animals wounded and becoming sick or anything since that risks making us sick. So you need to be careful with keeping too many in close quarters and you need proper facilities. Gaffigan has a joke where someone asks, “Do you know what they do to those animals?” and he responds, “No, but its delicious.”

    As for Palin, I would just prefer she go away now.

  4. Daimao

    Trying to defend gay marriage with “it’s not hurting anyone” sounds like a weak argument to me, and pretty dismissive towards those opposing gay marriage. What’s happening within society is very much their business, as it is for all citizens. It’s not their own marriages at stake, but the very institution of marriage which they feel morally obligated to protect. One way or another everyone will be affected on some level by the spread of gay marriage throughout the country. While those who oppose gay marriage may not have valid reasoning, their stance is still a legitimate one and should not be ignored.

    As for keeping their bigotry to themselves, well that’s never a good thing. It all needs to be pushed out into the open in order to deal with it.

    Also I think comparing the affairs of cows and pigs to that of man and woman is like apples and oranges.

  5. Ian

    There’s a difference between free speech and freedom of thought and acceptance. Certainly these bigoted people are allowed their opinions about gays and gay marriages. As I have pointed out here on this site and others elsewhere, since church and state are separate, instituting gay marriage does not mean that churches that oppose it, such as the Mormon church, will have to marry gays. I’d like to hear your opinions about how exactly instituting gay marriage would affect everyone, and I would like to see if any of those are significant enough reasons to have state sponsored bigotry. While we are a “democracy” (really a republic), we don’t have true majority rule. That’s pretty much the entire purpose of the SCOTUS, to protect the minority from an unjust majority with the Constitution.

    You are right however, that in the legal sense, “It won’t hurt anyone,” isn’t a strong argument. Its the common sense argument, but it isn’t a strong legal one. Here is your stronger argument: The Fourteenth Amendment states, “No state shall deny to any person the equal protection of the law,” and there is legal precedence in Brown vs. Board of Education for the striking down of “separate but equal” laws since they are inherently unequal.

    Also, what are you talking about bringing people bringing out their bigotry? That’s led to the deaths and persecution of millions. I’d prefer these people silently get over it, or at least carry it to their graves. Such large changes in public perception occur over generations, and if you want evidence of that you can look at the leading news story this week.

    To be a little less polite, those who oppose gay marriage can stuff it. I have gay friends (in California no less), and I hate to seem them deemed second class citizens. I could care less about waiting for some hick bigots to get over their uneasiness. My friends deserve equality.

  6. Chris

    Ian,
    Andrew Sullivan made the same point you did this morning:

    I’m happy to say that Proposition 2 passed, providing minimal humane protections for pigs, chickens and other farm animals. How odd for people to restrict cruelty for animals and simultaneously inflict it on some humans.

  7. Chris

    Daimao,
    I challenge you to come up with some ways that gay marriage actually hurts its opponents.

    To be fair, here are some concrete reasons that discriminating against gay couples hurts them (via Greenwald):

    …if an American citizen marries a foreign national of the same sex, then DOMA bars the INS from recognizing the marriage as a basis for granting immigration rights. As a result of DOMA, American citizens are put in the hideous predicament of having to choose either to (a) live apart from their spouse or (b) live outside their own country. The U.S. now stands virtually alone in the Western World in imposing such a cruel dilemma on its citizens…

    Denial of equal immigration rights is just one example of the grave injustices spawned by DOMA. A whole array of crucial marriage-based tax, pension, visitation, inheritance and legal standing rights are granted to opposite-sex couples but denied to same-sex couples. These aren’t abstract injustices; they heavily burden, and can even devastate, people’s lives for no good reason. And it is a severe governmental intrusion into the private choices and private lives of Americans.

  8. Daimao

    I imagine that the more states that pass gay marriage, the greater a presence gay couples will have within society. As more and more people come out, homosexuality would certainly gain much more attention than it already has.

    As others have noted, chances are the way society views the family structure will be altered. Children will begin to learn new definitions of marriage from school, and probably all about homosexuality and same-sex couples. The media would see a shift as well. You’ll see an increase of magazine ads and television depicting same-sex families, etc.

    No one will be able to just look the other way anymore. Those on the opposition will have to deal with openly gay co-workers, relatives who will decide to come out, and having to answer their kids’ questions. Those churches will eventually begin to feel the pressure from outside sources. Of course none of this is reason to perpetuate injustice, and may not necessarily hurt anyone, but it will affect everyone in society on some level.

    That’s why I think it’s important to use stronger arguments(like the ones you guys noted)when defending same-sex marriage. I’ve heard people in the media, even professional commentators say things like “it won’t hurt anyone”, or “we’re all human”, and that just seems either insulting or naive. I’m not sure they’re even common sense arguments. I don’t think anyone should try and defend the opposition’s reasons, but they should at least actually acknowledge their position and try to understand it in order to effectively and respectfully debate it.

    As for putting the bigotry all out on the table, I don’t think it would have to lead to the deaths and persecutions of millions. People should be honest and take action against what they think is wrong, whether they are just or not. No one will get over anything by keeping quiet and letting their opinions sit; if they don’t take up the cause, their children will. I’d rather have some riots and a little violence now than wait silently for generations to come until the public wakes up.