I think I can say, with a great of certainty, that the American people are glad this election is finally over. It was a long slog. It was very negative. Facts were stretched. Billions of dollars were spent. And in the end, it affirmed our democratic system still works. For that, I am extremely thankful.
The United States was in the throes of a dark, deadly, and divisive Civil War when President Abraham Lincoln gave his famous Gettysburg Address at the consecration of the National Cemetery in Gettysburg on November 19, 1863. The nation was divided, states were divided, and families were divided. In a little over two minutes he summed up the principles of human equality as stated in the Declaration of Independence, that unity was more important than individuality of states, concluding that our government was of the people, by the people, and for the people.
The 2012 election was a reminder just how much our democracy really is of the people, by the people, and for the people. Here are my top four observations of our democracy at work:
Money cannot buy an election. The two presidential candidates combined spent more than two billion dollars. That doesn’t even take into account the hundreds of thousands individual candidates spent for their campaigns. The super-PACs also racked up a staggering dollar figure for candidates and initiatives, often outside the states they resided. It was an obscene amount of money and it had virtually no impact for the greater good of humanity. Thankfully, the people spoke. Their vote cannot be bought. Money is powerful, but not more powerful than making your own decision.
The fringe may be loud and obnoxious, but people choose with reason. The Tea Party may think their extreme ideas are what’s best for the country and are appealing to voters, but when all is said and done, people want leaders who get things done. The only way to get things done is through reasoned debate, respectful negotiation, and shared compromise. Coercion, hostage-taking, and unwillingness to come to the bargaining table usually fail to win friends and influence enemies. Thankfully, the people spoke. An idea may sound acceptable when among other like-minded people in your own sandbox. But in the real world, we have to learn to play with others who are different than us and we often learn their sandbox isn’t very different than our own.
Women, and issues important to women, matter. Men who inserted themselves into women’s issues lost. The men who made the ridiculous and offensive remarks about rape and God demonstrated that they do not have a command of basic facts and information. Women won some hard fought races with New Hampshire as the first state to send an all female delegation to Congress and an historic number of women (1 in 5) in the Senate. Thankfully, the people spoke. Women will make their own choices.
We can no longer ignore our diversity. Even the most reluctant realizes we must consider our diversity: ethnically, culturally, religiously, for starters. There are now two Muslims in Congress. Maine, Maryland, and Washington join Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Vermont, and the District of Columbia in allowing marriage equality. As a nation of immigrants, we hail from various ethnic and cultural backgrounds making us visually global. Thankfully, the people spoke. We value our equality, our civil rights, and our right to vote. We will be heard.
No matter who we voted for or how we feel about the outcome of this election, this still holds true:
Democracy in a nation of 300 million can be noisy and messy and complicated. We have our own opinions. Each of us has deeply held beliefs. And when we go through tough times, when we make big decisions as a country, it necessarily stirs passions, stirs up controversy. That won’t change after tonight, and it shouldn’t. These arguments we have are a mark of our liberty. President Barack Obama, from the victory speech following his reelection.