The sometimes serious, but generally frivolous, musings of a city girl now living in the woods.
It’s been almost three weeks since Barack Obama was re-elected and all four of the gay marriage propositions on state ballots went for the good guys. A lot has already been said about what happened and demographic shifts and Mitt Romney thinks there were gifts and Nate Silver and so much more. There were several people, smart, brilliant writers who dealt with these important ideas. Here is a sampling:
Rich Benjamin: Whites Only: GOP Meets its Demographic Destiny
Ta-Nahisi Coates: Latino Voters: Wide Awake, Cranky and Taking Names
The Crunk Feminist Collective: When the Love has Gone
And, one of my faves, Roxane Gay: Observations, Now That President Obama has been Re-elected
Really, these folks have a lot of good stuff to say, and I should probably leave it there. Why gild the lily, right?
But, I am writing a weblog, which is nothing if not self-serving, so I will attempt to add my two cents to those of these good people. I would like to add something to the conversation about how the general trend started moving leftward–though it is more like populist, than leftward, but that is a different post for a different day–and about how I experienced this election.
Occupying the Election
As I was watching the results come in, and especially when they called Elizabeth Warren the next senator from Massachusetts, I kept thinking that someone, anyone, would start to mention the effect of the Occupy Wall Street Movement on the electorate. But nobody did. In our 24-hour news cycle, are we so forgetful that the Occupy protests were too far away to be seen as influential? Because, really, I can’t imagine the result would be the same if it weren’t for the important rhetorical work they did. Here’s what I mean: if folks all over this country hadn’t Occupied and relentlessly discussed and described the (economic) differences between the 1% and 99% of people in this country there would not have been nearly the focus on wealth and income inequality we saw during the election. Elizabeth Warren was elected, I believe, because the good people of Massachusetts were fed up with the business-as-usual approach of the Scott Browns of the world. But it wasn’t just what Warren didn‘t stand for, but what she did. She discussed, very frankly, the fact of our need to take care of everyone, not just the rich. She was debunking the notion of trickle-down economics, as she had for all of her public life.
I also think the relentless discussion of “restoring the middle class” among the candidates was also, at least in part, because of the re-framing of everyone but the very wealthy as one big group. Truly, there are very few middle-class people in the US, no matter how you define it. Middle implies, well, the middle, and even if you picture a statistically very broad middle, there is still also a bottom. And there are a lot of people on the bottom of our income pyramid. But he Occupy movement helped us to simultaneously feel united as a great-big-ole 99% and helped politicians to talk about a hu-uge middle class. And know what? That huge middle class actually responded with a resounding f/ck you to the 1%. As Charles S. Pierce said about the Occupy movement over at Esquire:
My (Not So) Lonely Night
See, I was alone on election night. After a great afternoon voting and hanging around with my kid, I was alone on the couch for the election result show(s). Em was working in San Francisco and I was looking forward to a quiet night working on my NaNoWriMo novel, occasionally checking the web for results. I was pretty anxious about the fate of Prop. 30, an initiative to raise taxes on the very wealthy to fund school and infrastructure projects in California. It was only a stop-gap, and would really only help for a little while, but the cuts that would be triggered if it didn’t pass would be devastating to our schools. And then there were all the marriage amendments across the States to check out. I figured out that the East Coast polls closed at 5:00, my time, and that in feeding, bathing and pajama-ing my kids I had missed a lot of results.
So, trusty computer on my lap and TV on mute, I started to see results. And, because there was no one to shout at or jump around with, I started updating my status on Facebook. And so, apparently, did everyone else. Well not everyone. I must admit that most of my more conservative family members stayed pretty quiet. I tried not to bait them, or gloat, but I was psyched. This was truly the first time the entire election went my way–well, almost, we did not repeal the death penalty in California, and Monsanto won, but I had already made my peace that those things would happen.
And so my comrades and I took to social media. It was interesting because I have been really moved by all the research that shows that as a society we are getting worse and worse at connecting to one another in real and meaningful ways, but on that night, in my quiet house in a small town, I was having a pretty raucous set of conversations with friends all over the US–and world! Bravo for Facebook! I was doing real-time election result worrying with fellow teachers over Prop. 30, I was celebrating the victories in the marriage fight, I was dreaming with a particularly visionary friend about what my priorities would be going forward, and I was even flirting with my wife, by complimenting Rachel Maddow, of course! And somehow, I managed to get proposed to, several times. At least, that’s how Emily read it:
My post: When will it be politically acceptable *not* to end a speech with “God Bless America?” I accept that we won’t get an “All Power to the People” any time soon, but what if you could just acknowledge the work of the people of this nation and leave it at that?
Here are the replies, which all came within half-an-hour.
And on like that. We were elated, funny and talking about things that we seldom do in the midst of all of our posting of photos of meals and kids. I know that we have a lot to do–A LOT–to make sure young people are not sucked down the rabbit hole of social media and cyber-bullying and getting stuck indoors, etc. But on election night, I think I really saw the potential power to connect that the internet gives. I was inspired, informed, amused, and perhaps, most important, not lonely.