The 2008 election was great but the 2012 version was even better in the sense that while the former brought prospects for hope and change, the latter delivered an glorious combination of relief and joy.
The wins were as good as any progressive optimist could dream of, on a good night - the reelection of the president (and the elimination of the grim repercussions of a Romney/Ryan Administration), Democratic gains in the Senate, defeats of several truly grotesque Senatorial candidates (i.e., in Florida, Connecticut and worst of all, Indiana and Missouri - Todd Akin and Richard E. Mourdock,), retribution at the polls in Florida for both the Republican Legislature’s attempts to suppress the vote and amend the Constitution in several different nefarious ways), notable House wins (especially Alan Grayson and Patrick Murphy, the latter of whom - ousted the mountebank Allen West) and wins across the country for gay rights and legalizing/decriminalizing marijuana (albeit to a modest extent). Yes, of course there were disappointments (e.g., the reelection of Michelle Bachmann, the defeat of Pete Stark - the only openly nontheist member of Congress and the rejection of a ballot measure in Massachusetts that would have legalized assisted suicide), but I’m looking on the bright side here.
Another Favorite Outcome, But Not My Favorite
I was also pretty excited to see my own demographic take it on the chin and find itself widely proclaimed as being a diminished force, a dying breed, a group that, for the first time in American history, is no longer the largest and most powerful voting segment in America. I refer of course to the one and perhaps only thing I have in common with Charles and David Koch, Karl Rove, Donald Trump, Sheldon Adelson, Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly, Rick Scott and yes, Mitt Romney.
No, not great wealth, power or fame, unfortunately. I refer to the fact that they are all, like me, old white males.
But, given the way “my people” behave in electoral politics, I’m happy to see our influence at the voting booth dramatically reduced.
Why I Cheer the Decline of My Own Demographic
The reason I don’t mind is that, except for the fact that I share a chronological cohort, gender and racial identity with the Hall of Right Wing Infamy just listed and most other if unheralded old white men, is because I and they have little or nothing else in common. I identify much more with the economic and social values of women, gays, minorities and young people.
Of course, anyone who knows that I am an infidel, vegan, REAL wellness enthusiast and supporter of Occupy Wall Street won’t be surprised to learn that I would never identify, align with or support the interests of old white males.
I think old white male malcontents like me should devise some kind of special identity. We should let everyone know we are not like those other who look like us. We need bumper stickers, pennants, caps, buttons or maybe some distinctive clothing - something that could set us apart from the “normal” old white guys. Such distinctions would show our pride in being different from the oligarch troglodytes. In addition, we could enjoy regular “high fives” and “thumbs up” signs of fraternal common cause from our female, gay and lesbian, minority and young allies. Perhaps not insignificantly, should it come to this, such a separate identity could come in handy at some future date if resentment against our cohort role in society should get out of hand. That is, we could be spared when the revolution comes and the proletariat storm the ramparts of our gated communities. We would not want to be aligned with the Koch brothers, Donald Trump and that crowd of old white guys if that day should come to pass.
My Favorite Thing About the 2012 Election
What really tickled me about the recent election was the sense that Americans are growing tired of the Christian Right. Tolerance and equality won out as never before. On issues of same-sex marriage in the four states where the issue appeared on the ballot, on the defeat of anti-abortion-rights candidates and on legalizing marijuana for recreational use, voters who were not primarily old white guys did the right thing and society will be better for it.
The New York Times published an analysis of the results that suggests voters repudiated the Religious Right and concluded “that the cultural tide — especially on gay issues — has shifted against them.” (See: Laurie Goodstein, “Christian Right Failed to Sway Voters on Issues,” New York Times, November 9, 2012.) What could be better than that? That’s my greatest joy taken from this election.
The Religious Right tried mightily to use faith-based arguments to turn followers into Republican voters. Billy Graham paid for full page ads in newspaper across the country endorsing Mitt Romney. Roman Catholic bishops attacked the president’s health care policies because contraceptives are to be made available to those who request them. Christian lobby groups like the Freedom Coalition passed out “voter guides” during religious services and funded massive m
ail and telephone voter drives. After it was all over, one evangelical leader looked at the results and gave voice to the obvious, saying: “It’s that the entire moral landscape has changed. An increasingly secularized America understands our positions, and has rejected them.” (Source: New York Times article cited above.)
I’d like to think that a part of this rejection is the expansion of influence by another group besides women, gays, minorities and young people - “nones” like me! Yes, some old white guys are nones!
We are twenty percent of the population, according to a study done by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. Some of the population groups noted above, with which this old white guy identifies, are even more populated by nones, particularly the young segment of the new majority. In that group, a full one-third are atheists, agnostics or “nothing in particular.” One thing you know for sure about them: They did not show much affection for the agenda of the Christian Right.
The Times story included this from the chief executive of the Public Religion Research Institute: “This election signaled the last where a white Christian strategy is workable.”
That is why the diminution of the Christian agenda was the highlight of the 2012 election for this old white guy.
Paul Broun is a Republican member of Congress from Georgia. He chairs the House Science, Space and Technology Committee. He is a physician by training. He ran unopposed, evidently because Democrats in Georgia have little prospect of electing anyone who is not an evangelical Christian. During a speech on September 27, Congressman Broun called evolution and the Big Bang theory “lies straight from the pit of hell.”
This motivated University of Georgia plant biology professor Jim Leebens-Mack to organize a write-in campaign. On election day, 4000 votes were cast for the write-in candidate, British naturalist and father of evolution Charles Darwin. Not enough to win, but enough to send a message to one of those old white guys that the end is near.