Presidential elections are a farce. After billions of dollars and tons of slanderous speech thrown about by candidates, pundits, and Facebook soapboxes, American voters invariably wind up with the inadequate "lesser of the two evil parties" choice. We find ourselves voting for bits and pieces of our candidate's platform, even if the other bits make us feel morally queasy. We try to ignore the fact that topics like climate change, international aggression, and free trade oppression seem to have already been decided by all of our recent mainstream candidates. Acquiescing to the wealthy and prioritizing defense spending seem to also be unavoidable pitfalls for politicians these days. In fact, positions on these topics are as rooted in our political culture as subsidies for big oil.
While old school voter suppression and sketchy voting software aroused my suspicions on election day, the federal elections overall held little drama for me. I suppose I didn't believe a huge difference would be made. Of course, I'm wholly invested in the success of health care reform, and want to see planned parenthood stick around as much as any self-respecting lady. I also see the value in having a president who understands what it's like to earn success instead of receiving it as a graduation present. A president who can inspire all young children, regardless of race or ethnicity, to believe that they can one day be president, too. There's real inspiration to be gained from this man, and I appreciate that.
But apart from social programs, and an ability to connect with non-wealthy Americans, I didn't see a huge difference in the policies of each candidate. I'm relieved that Obama won, for several reasons. But mostly because I was mistrustful of Mitt Romney's utter misunderstanding (at best) and resentment (at worst) of low-income
, and women
On the local level, however, I had more hope. Maryland made some bold moves this election year, and nearly all of the questions on the ballot were meaningful. The notable ones were:
4. The Dream Act: Granting in-state tuition rates to Maryland high school graduates whose parents pay taxes in Maryland, regardless of immigration status. PASSED. WIN.
5. Re-districting: Basically, gerrymandering that resulted in republican representative Roscoe Bartlett gaining significantly more democrats in his district. As anticipated, this shift was his undoing, as his democratic challenger was able to unseat him. Maryland lost one republican congressperson, and gained a democrat. Sleazy win?
6. Marriage equality. Marriage equality. Marriage equality. We became the first state to vote to support equal rights for our neighbors. I'm so, so glad that we voted the way we did, and so happy that ALL of my friends' families will now have equal protection under the law. I know I should be proud of this vote, but initially I only felt ashamed to live in a society where the rights of a minority group are decided by the will of the majority. Rights are not for voting on. Rights are rights. Period. But, as MY loving life partner pointed out, progress is made in small steps, and our flawed society is slowly working on correcting itself. So, I'm happy that we're making progress, despite the ugliness that might stand in the way. And in the end, I'm happy to say that LOVE WON in Maryland.
7. Casino gambling. It already exists in Maryland, but this question moved to expand it. I was almost sure it would pass, although I voted against it (gambling may raise revenue, but almost always does so at the expense of low-income folks), because of the plethora of "yes on 7" ads I saw about town. They must have spent a fortune on this, so I was surprised to see the margin narrower than I had expected. Win for state revenue. Lose for state residents.
There were also some ballots I was watching in other states around the country. Namely, I saw California's vote to label GM food products as a chance for America to show some common sense when it comes to consumer protection. But, after a 46 million dollar investment of mostly out-of-state funds, the agribusiness giants were able to convince voters that ignorance is bliss.
I was happy to see sensible drug policies passed in Colorado and Washington. Short-lived though they might potentially be, these decisions move away from the ineffective and irresponsible habit of incarcerating non-violent offenders.
And of course, I was happy to see marriage equality take great strides in other states: Maine voted to allow same-sex marriage, while Washington voted to KEEP its current same-sex marriage law. Minnesota voters chose not to ban future same-sex marriages, which is still something (this is when I need to remember my lesson about society moving forward in slow steps...).
I am always happy to see love win, and I'm proud of those who fought so hard to make it happen. Overall, I'm pleased with the outcomes of the elections, albeit still disillusioned about America's politics.