In addition to civic duty, I'm willing to admit that part of the reason that I voted for Barack Obama was revenge. That was the last small, petty bit of silliness that the Romney campaign dragged around to the must-win states that they didn't win--an offhand remark from Obama: "Voting is the best revenge!" Naturally, because this is what a flailing campaign does, they tried to construe this as something other than the obvious point:
You vote against Romney and move on. Don't hate--just win.
I'm not as chill as the President is. I like winning, and I like that we did. But I still have some bad feelings, so let me sum up more ways in which it is revenge, and not just because "living well is the best revenge." (Which I will always hear in Ivana Trump's voice, interestingly.)
You also vote because the bastards don't want you to, and together we work on doing what we need to do. You look at the disenfranchisement, the long lines, the attempts to end early voting, the robocalls and leaflets that gave wrong election dates and the negative ads not designed to make people vote for a given candidate--but to make them give up their franchise in despair. You look at all that undemocratic fuckery and you have to vote. You have to try and change it. You have to believe that we can do better; but more than that, we have to do it together.
And for Obama's part, he has to keep the faith with us that we put in him--and his victory speech is long on the promise that he will keep that faith. But here's a thing he doesn't have to worry about now--re-election. His mandate is that he did get re-elected this time. He has four more years. It's all he'll get. So this "why doesn't he make a big friendly bipartisan gesture" talk I'm hearing?
Boehner and McConnell can fold that noise up into all sharp corners and sit on it until 2014. If they want to continue to be obstructionist, that's fine--but the next referendum is on them. And voting is the best revenge.
But is that enough? Is it really just as simple as that--vote? Not exactly, but the results we saw this year give me a lot of reason to hope that we are looking at a transformation in how we do politics for the better, even in spite of Citizens United (which I also think might be on borrowed time, but that is another chapter for another book). Several pundits have pointed out that a demographic bomb just went off under the GOP strategy, or in the words of Sen. Lindsay Graham, they weren't generating enough "angry white guys".
I've known and loved some angry white guys in my lifetime--and I'm taking away nothing from them in pointing out that they aren't the only voters out there. They aren't even always conservative. But look at the polling lies the conservatives told themselves--that the gender gap had closed. That the youth vote wasn't going to turn out. That they could peel off some disaffected non-white voters by, I'm afraid to say, what looks like shiny objects and tokenism. And although they didn't make as big a deal of using gay marriage as a wedge issue as in years past, they certainly didn't do much in the way of LGBT* voter outreach.
The conservative commentators can blame Romney/Ryan's loss on Governor Christie (who is just trying to effectively work with the Federal government because a terrible tragedy has happened to a significant part of his state), the liberal media, people who just want "free stuff", the "sluts" who bought into the "War on Women"--but until they start taking a look at those demographic check boxes and seeing actual people, they will still have a hard time speaking to those voters and their real concerns, and will make the kind of dumbfuck mistakes of saying "the rape thing" or "war on caterpillars" or "blah people" that dismiss whole groups of people and their experiences.
If they do take a look at what this election means, one thing that will seriously change is the future of using wedge issues to pit small demographic groups against each other. The success of marriage equality as a ballot issue in four states demonstrates that this issue isn't as powerful a wedge as it once was; that birth control and abortion restrictions are now spoken of in concrete terms of what they mean to women physically, emotionally, economically, as opposed to the pious abstractions of the religious right, is a good sign. It's a shame that something as integral to our history as immigration can only be addressed at last, rationally, once we have an electorally-meaningful significant recent-immigrant demographic, but so? Should the GOP not get serious about addressing it now, without pandering to white nativists--even if it has only now become electorally necessary for them to do so?
I guess what I'm saying is--the best is yet to come because business as usual has no business being "usual" anymore. We as liberals can't afford to yield on the things that matter anymore, whether it's not retreating on entitlements, or moving forward to address climate change, but we've never had less excuse for yielding. And the conservatives have never had a better time to seek changes of their own.
Or at the very least, they can get out of the damn way.