As a teacher who has created, organized, and participated in a variety of diversity-related educational and commemorative programs, I have been proud to encounter some seldom-heard ideas about diversity and political power since the election. In accounts that I have heard and read, conservative Republican leaders realized with this election that Obama won because his ideas coincide with the diversity of America. Our now-two-term president won more than 90% of the African-American vote, more than 70% of the Hispanic vote, and nearly 60% of the women’s vote, while still winning a significant portion of the white male vote; by contrast, Romney’s strongest support was centered among white men, with a significant portion of women, mostly married and white. One NBC report on Wednesday night stated that the white-male stranglehold on the national electorate is waning with the rapid empowerment of diverse groups within the nation’s population; for example, a few years ago, the Hispanic vote constituted 2% of total votes and this year it was 10%. On NPR, I heard that one Republican pollster said that the difference between Republicans who were baffled by the loss and those who understood it was the difference between Republicans who can’t count and those who can. Every news source was reporting the same thing: the Republican party has got to change to embrace the diversity of our nation by becoming more moderate and by finding common ground with all Americans. One NPR commentator said that the Republicans are stuck in 1980; their problem is that we’re living in 2012.
I have to admit that I was astounded in 2008 when Obama won the presidency, even though he had been my choice since the earliest primary races. (After Bill Clinton, Obama was only the second political candidate that I had ever liked immediately.) Today, I am even more astounded that national media outlets are acknowledging that a healthy respect for diversity is not only a good idea but necessary for winning the presidential election. The polarizing politics of the modern right-wing (coupled with some near-draconian comments about women and rape made by some right-wing commentators and politicians in recent years) is causing millions of people in our nation to call them out on it, with their voices and their votes. We have reached a stage in our culture that culturally insensitive, elitist, racist, misogynistic and chauvinistic people are no longer being endorsed or even tolerated.
Certainly, the Republican party still holds power in many places, including in the US House of Representatives — they did lose seats in Congress in this election — and their majority leader John Boehner was already softening his stance on tax hikes the very day after the election. This last political cycle saw a hard line from the right-wing, calling the 2012 election a choice between two different visions of America, and the American people have answered that politicians working together is what our nation expects. It is clear that divisiveness is no longer acceptable in America.
Understanding that, as the national folks seem to, I hope that some of it trickles down here to the Deep South where I live, where for instance some states are fighting multi-million-dollar legal battles to keep our harsh immigration laws. Nothing good is coming from divisiveness – never has – and I have hope that the national leaders of the political right-wing may push our Southern leaders in a more tolerant and diversity-conscious direction.