The winner in this year's election was not Barack Obama; it was "we the people." Despite years of corporate propaganda amplified by a compliant press, hundreds of millions of One-Percent dollars funneled into campaign advertising, candidates who refused to take strong progressive stands, and concerns about the "dumbing down" of America, voters showed their mettle. We beat back the designs of the Republican Flat Earth Society, and, in so doing, produced one of the best election cycles in memory.
Here are five lessons of this election that we should not forget as we are inundated by political noise from the Beltway and Sacramento.
Voters understood the dangers of Corpacracy. Before the election I wrote of the perils of a Republican presidency consecrating the idea of the "American Gospel of Wealth," given the GOP's control of the US Supreme Court and its ability to stalemate Congress. As I wrote then, quoting Adam Gopnik of The New Yorker, a Romney victory would have enshrined "the idea that rich people got rich by being good, that riches are a sign of virtue, and that they should therefore be allowed to rule."
The American people, by a wide margin, rejected this deeply flawed construct, and we should be proud of their insight. Mitt Romney and the US Supreme Court may believe that corporations are people, but the American people know that they are not part of our human species.
Progressives have not only won the Culture Wars, we have demolished the Government-in-Your- Body,-Relationships,-and-Houses crowd. Nincompoops who minimized rape were humiliated in the election, and the passage of gay marriage and marijuana legalization laws were awe-inspiring. Just a short number of years ago, same-sex marriage initiatives were rejected by voters. Advocates were forced to make end-runs around the electoral process to craft clever and sometimes successful legal strategies.
But this election, several states with moderate electorates approved same-sex marriage initiatives. This is a profound development.
On marijuana, it's clear that the American people, by a wide margin, are tired of the "Drug War" charade. Even Fox News viewers voted for cannabis. In both Arkansas and Colorado, more votes were cast for marijuana reform than for President Obama. In Arkansas, a state that I can say from personal experience is about a decade behind California on most social issues, a medical marijuana initiative failed by only two percentage points, and received nearly 150,000 more votes than the president.
Today's unions don't look or act like they used to, but we should be glad that they still have electoral power. As David Moberg pointed out in In These Times, Romney held a slight lead with non-union voters nationally, but union members voted for Obama by a 32-point margin. So even with a declining percentage of union members in the country, this year's union landslide helped seal the president's victory. Get Out the Vote efforts by unions were also important.
Unions emptied their headquarters of staff, sending women and men to targeted districts in key swing states, where they spent weeks away from their families knocking on doors and identifying friendly voters. Displaying passion, verve, and untiring energy, these union members were key to Obama's success.
In California, voters recognized Proposition 32 for what it was — a thinly veiled attempt to curb the ability of unions and their members to participate fully in the political process. All progressives should be thankful for the unions, even with the warts and the difficult-to-understand activity that this movement sometimes exhibits. Remember this election the next time you want to complain about the inconvenience of a transit, school, or garbage strike.
Facts are stubborn things, and living in a bubble is hazardous. The conservative high command lives in a world of its own creation. The power of Fox, Rush Limbaugh, the Drudge Report, and their ilk allows many to only read and hear the distorted vision of the Right, and to believe that these outlets speak the truth. Nearly every conservative commentator and politician got swept into this alternative universe, where facts don't matter and data and science are irrelevant.
And the attacks on pollsters from the Right in the last couple of weeks of the election were comical. It might feel good to go after pollsters when you don't like what their models say, but it's not a winning strategy. Reality is real.
We live in a diverse country, and that's a beautiful thing. For all its problems, Oakland is a demographic microcosm of the coming America. This election also showed that this demographic shift is rapidly spreading throughout the country. The white man BS of trashing immigrants and brown and black people is over for those who want to win national elections. And many Republicans know they now have a huge problem. It's going to be fun to watch their gyrations over the next period as they spin and spin and spin.
So as we approach this holiday season, we should consider this election one more thing to be thankful for. Our national politicians are sure to disappoint us in the coming days, weeks, and months, and real change is not going to come by voting for a Wall Street Democrat over a Wall Street Republican. But we stopped the reactionary advance.
As a result, when celebrating Thanksgiving this week, we can feel good that when things are on the line, the American people can be counted on.