So (most of) the election results are in. And the results are…very similar to what they were yesterday. President Obama will have another four years in office, the House will remain in Republican control, and the Senate will remain under the leadership of the Democratic party. Climate-change-deniers and anti-science folks still have seats on the House Science and Technology Committee, obstruction is still quite possible, and a filibuster is still an option. Heck, even Sheriff Joe Arpaio got reelected.
I think it’s easy to be cynical about the election results–as if nothing has changed. But that oversimplifies things. I think there were a lot of exciting and interesting developments that came out of last night’s election, many of which point to (in my opinion) a brighter future ahead.
First, President Obama was re-elected. The Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, is here to stay. We will probably get a few Supreme Court Justices. These are the easy legacy bits. As far as other pieces, who knows what they will be: alternative energy, tax reform, changes to foreign policy? I guess we’ll find out. I think we may get some hints about legacy if there are some Cabinet shifts, which are probably more likely than not.
Second, the election was a big night for women. The Senate will have 18 women serving soon–an all time high. This includes Tammy Baldwin, the first openly gay person elected to the Senate. It also includes Elizabeth Warren. As a liberal lawyer, I cannot wait to see her shine during the Senate Committee hearings. Her campaign had some rocky moments, but I think she will do great in office.
Third, the election was a great night for human rights. Not gay rights, but the right for people–your friends, family, and neighbors–to get married, visit sick loved ones in the hospital, to inherit property, etc. You know, basic rights hetero couples take for granted. Four states–Maine, Washington, Minnesota, and Maryland–approved marriage equality acts. Let’s hope more are on the way.
Fourth, it was a bad night for those who spoke so callously and ignorantly regarding rape, pregnancy, and women’s health. Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock. Good riddance.
Fifth, Washington and Colorado legalized marijuana. I’m focusing on this because I want to see how President Obama directs federal law enforcement to react to it. Will President Obama push back hard? Or will he let Washington and Colorado experiment? Will these two states become the thin edge of the wedge when it comes to national marijuana legalization and changing attitudes on the abysmal failure that has been the War on Drugs? How’s that for a potential legacy moment for President Obama?
So that’s where we’re at. It’s an interesting and hopeful time. Yet there is so much more to be done. So I guess the big question I have left is how will the GOP react? What will be the narrative regarding Governor Romney’s loss and the Democratic Party gains in the Senate? Will the Republican Party shift further right or will it shed more extreme elements? Will compromise become easier or more difficult? And it’s not like the Democratic Party and President Obama are innocent on this issue, but I will be curious to see how the GOP positions itself for the 2014 cycle.
Anyway, today is a day for many to celebrate, for others to study and analyze, and for all political junkies to drink more coffee. Have a great day, everyone.