POLITICS - What was so striking about this election was the nation’s rejection of the Republican attacks, both open and subtle, against ethnic minorities, gays and lesbians and all women.
In giving President Barack Obama a second term, the country has spurned Republican lies, protection of the rich and scorn for Latinos and African-Americans. Instead, the election assured a continuation of decent health care, fair taxation and protection of the rights of immigrants.
The vote also means a president, a Senate and, most important, a Supreme Court supporting Roe v. Wade and opposed to Republican efforts to deprive women of control of their bodies, including the long-established right to use contraception.
The voters’ rejection of oddball Republican Senate candidates should—although it probably won’t—drive a stake in the heart of the GOP right wing. If it doesn’t, Republicans may be relegated nationally to what they have become in California, an anti-Latino, anti-tax, anti-government party of less and less consequence.
For Obama, the election brings a huge challenge. His crowning domestic achievement, the Affordable Care Act—Obamacare, as it will be known through history—will remain the law. The safety net has been preserved. But the complicated job of implementing Obamacare so it becomes as much a part of American life as Social Security or Medicare will be challenging as the law takes full effect in 2014.
The president will have to put his full attention to pulling all the troops from Afghanistan as soon as possible, a subject that escaped much attention during the presidential campaign.
He will also have to battle for a fair tax system, ditching the Bush tax cuts, in the negotiations over the so-called fiscal cliff facing the country as of Jan. 1, 2013, which is the result of Republican intransigence during last year’s budget negotiations.
He didn’t dig into all these details in his speech celebrating his solid victory over former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney—a speech that matched in eloquence his oratory of the 2008 campaign.
Seeking to go beyond the fierceness of the campaign and the bitterness of his battles with congressional Republicans, Obama said, “We are an American family and we rise and fall as one nation and as one people.”
He said, “Our economy is recovering. A decade of war is ending. Our long campaign is now over. And whether I earned your vote or not, I have listened to you, and I have learned from you and you have made me a better president.… Tonight, you voted for action, not politics as usual. You elected us to focus on your jobs, not ours.”
Looking at the results, you wonder how the Republicans could have been so stupid.
All through their presidential primary contests, the Republican candidates competed against another for the position of being toughest on Latino immigration. Their favorite state was Arizona, with its laws hostile to immigrants, and their hero public official was the Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio, whose deputies relentlessly enforced the state’s laws to excess. Romney led the pack. In fact, he attacked Texas Gov. Rick Perry for favoring a way of giving immigrant children an education.
Apparently, they paid no attention to a study by the Pew Hispanic Center, which found that a record 23.7 million Latinos were eligible to vote in this year’s presidential election, up by 4 million from 2008.
And vote they did. The precise numbers haven’t been determined but Latinos certainly gave Obama Nevada, Colorado and, according to one report, even Pennsylvania, a state never before considered a Latino stronghold. All these were swing states, essential for Obama’s victory.
If the Republicans ignore this vote, they could follow the path of California Republicans who espoused an anti-immigrant ballot measure in the 1980s, forever alienating the Latino community.
The party still hasn’t recovered.
Republican efforts to keep African-Americans from the polls by limiting voting hours failed. African-Americans, determined to exercise their voting rights, waited for hours in line along with other voters. Anger no doubt spurred their turnout.
Another indication of the narrow, cloistered state of the Republican Party is the victory of gay marriage measures in Maine and Maryland. Back in 2004, Republicans used gay marriage as a weapon against Democrats.
And the Republicans’ anti-abortion rhetoric, so hostile to women, will be out of place in the new Senate, where a record number of women, 19, including both Democrats and Republicans, will serve. One of them is Democrat Tammy Baldwin, who will be the first openly gay senator.
Obama’s words may have been soaring, but they didn’t mean much to the Senate Republican leader, Mitch McConnell, disappointed in his hopes to be majority leader. He had vowed to make Obama a one-term president, and failed miserably in his effort. On election night, he sounded like the pre-election McConnell, saying it’s the president’s job to come to him and negotiate.
If he and Rep. Paul Ryan, back in his job as House Budget Committee chairman, intend to continue their policy of uncompromising obstructionism, however, they may find themselves as leaders of a party with little hope of regaining national power.
(Bill Boyarsky is a journalist and blogs at truthdig.com where this column first appeared. Visit truthdig.org for other prominent writers like Robert Scheer, Amy Goodman and Chris Hedges.)