First, some background reading on voting in America: how we came to have a secret ballot and why, despite the protestations of those who claim voting is an essentially useless act, it actually matters a lot.
Yesterday, before any election returns began to roll in, Alyssa Rosenberg wrote this, discussing the characterization of the Democrats’ voting base – minorities, women, LGBTQ – as a collection of “special interests”:
But those issues are not rendered illegitimate because someone needs them. The needs or wants of corporations, or white men in the Heartland, are not more value-neutral than the needs of poor people, or people with disabilities, or transgender people, or women.
And then America voted, and agreed. Not in landslides but in numbers enough to get the point across: gay marriage doesn’t scare us anymore; a black president doesn’t scare us anymore; a lesbian senator doesn’t scare us anymore. Old white men who want to withhold reproductive control and abortion rights to women even in cases of rape, however, apparently scare the shit out of us. The Republican politics of fear has been turned on its head.
And why? Because the Republican strategy has always been to appeal to idealized “true American”: white, male, Christian, gun-owning, non-urban, able-bodied, capitalist, straight, cis, non-Hispanic. And for a time, coasting on the backlash against progress towards racial equality and gender equality and LGBTQ equality, this worked. In 2008, something significant broke; we elected a black man and even though Prop 8 passed it was a heated and narrow victory, nothing like the anti-gay landslides of 2004. And last night took what had been cracked open four years ago and pulled it down further.
Progress is always messy and uneven. But that “true American” might now be recognized as just as much of a “special interest” of any minority (or women, who make up a majority of the electorate but who have somehow never quite gotten credit for that fact). David Simon has more.
(If you’re sick of reading election-related stuff, this history of Monopoly is also fascinating (and politically charged, but election-free).)