Lessons from the 2012 Election

“If you give the people enough time, they usually will do the right thing.” ~Frank Wright

Another election season has come and gone. As usual there were losers and winners. This cycle saw a correction from the sweeping conservative wave of the 2010 midterms. President Obama won reelection in what turned out to be a more decisive victory than anyone was predicting. The Democrats made modest gains in Congress. In Minnesota the two discriminatory ballot questions: one that would have limited the potential rights of same-sex couples to marry and the another that would have prevented countless at-risk voters from voting were both rejected by a majority of the electorate. And for the first time since the early nineties the Democratic Farmer Labor party has majority control of all statewide offices. While I could spend the rest of this post, basking in progressive glory, I think I’ll take the more prudent route and discuss a few things this election has taught me.

When turnout is at its highest the United States has a slight progressive bend to it. There’s been a great deal of lamenting by some of the more extreme elements on the Right regarding how this election proves traditional America no longer exists. Mr. O’Reilly’s apocalyptic exaggerations aside, this country has changed in the last ten years. That is it changed from a center right country to a center left nation that believes we need to move forward rather than try to take things back to the “way they were.” The problems the conservatives have is rather than adapt to a changing nation by appealing to the young, women and minority voters making up this new progressive majority, they instead try to limit the rights to vote to those more favorable to their points of view. A strategy that did not pay dividends this time around.

An educated populace usually makes the right decision.When the Voter Identification amendment was first placed on the ballot, many opponents to the bill were talking like its passage was forgone conclusion. And who could blame them? Support for such a measure was polling at 80 percent at the time. Getting that number below 50 seemed almost impossible. However, thanks to the overwhelmingly successful education campaign embarked upon by many of the oppositional groups including the coalition Our Vote Our Future, support began to fade. All it took was simple one-on-one conversations explaining all the potential problems such an amendment could cause for those seeking to exercise their right to vote. By the time Minnesotan’s made their voice heard in November, the amendment was struck down by almost 54 percent of voters. Furthermore thanks to a similar campaign by Minnesotan United for All Families Minnesota became the first state in the country to strike down the discriminatory marriage amendment. Proving, when given all the information, people will usually make the morally sound decision.

The extremes are becoming further out of touch with reality every day. One simply had to tune into Fox News or listen to the more extreme elements on the right to learn this lesson first hand. Be it Karl Rove’s inability to accept that Mitt Romney did indeed lose to Barack Obama or Donald Trump’s inappropriate, borderline treasonous Tweets, those at the extreme ends of the spectrum continue to become more and more out of touch with the average voter. Not to mention the nomination of many unelectable candidates during the primary season due to increasing extremism by the fringe of the Republican party. These candidates, espousing outdated views on women’s reproductive rights and many other social issues while failing to focus on the important economic issues of the day enabled Democrats to make gains on both the state and national level. When faced with this reality, rather than accept the people of America are looking for steady leadership, many of these extremists instead chose to blame the electorate for no longer representing traditional American ideals. To paraphrase Mr. Brian Williams, this type of blind refusal to acknowledge the true nature of things put these extreme elements in danger of passing the exit of relevance into something close to irresponsibility.

Every election cycle offers the opportunity for reflection. Many thing are learned. Some, like the realization that an educated, majority of Americans tend to make the right decision give me hope for the future. While others, show that walking too far towards one ideology causes one to lose touch with the finer points of reality. Some are pointing to the recent election as a sign of a deteriorating America, going as far as circulating petitions of secession. However, I believe this election has the potential to be a historical turning point for this country. Where Republicans and Democrats are finally able to break the gridlock caused by their more extreme elements and move towards solving many of the larger issues at hand. At least until the 2016 presidential election anyways.

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