Thursday, November 8, 2012

A shift in social attitudes

The campaign from the right tried to make the 2012 Presidential election a repudiation of President Obama’s economy.  The message was; there isn’t enough job growth, the economy is sluggish and the deficit is too high.  Many voters did buy into this message.  The electorate clearly moved to the right in this election. 

Most Americas it appears are fiscal conservatives.  In the past, when the economy was slow or sluggish, the incumbent faced certain defeat.  Votes may want their religion and their guns, but what they really want is a job and a future for their children.  There is nothing wrong with that.  After all, the thinking goes, without a healthy economy it may all be for naught.
With the blind confidence that the right’s strategy to focus on the economy was the correct one, many thought the voters wouldn’t notice the other ideas that the right would bring quietly with them to their elected posts.  But, those Republicans who could not be controlled by their party came out of the woodwork.  (Maybe a better word than “woodwork” might be “cave”.)  Most of the ideas from the most extreme Republicans were talking points from a century ago.  Birth control, rape, abortion, race, the rejection of gay rights, the role of government (or lack thereof) and many other old, tired ideas.  While the generation that came from those times may have been happy to talk about them, those from the last two generations rolled their eyes.

With an economy portrayed as being bad and an electorate that shifted to the right (actually, more like a shift to the center) should have been enough.  But, the social positions that the right holds so dearly brought it all back to focus.  It turned enough voters back in support of Obama. 
This represents a fundamental change in the social attitudes of the country, as slight as it may be.  In this election cyle, a president with a liberal social agenda won in what was portrayed as a sluggish economy.  Perhaps as many as four states (three for sure) supported marriage equity.  The voters want the financial reforms that came out of the crisis to stay in place.  They supported the continuation of the health care reform.  The right to choose will be left in place.  Gay rights will be supported by more and more people.  Also, many other ideas from the last two generations will now become accepted as part of a new life of freedom and security in the country.

If the Republicans continue with their current track of holding on to old social ideas they will soon be obscure.  But, if they change they may have a chance.  That of course, in the irony of the times, is actually what they are fighting against.

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