When Barack Obama won the 2008 election, I took to the streets. I wanted to see reactions to this historic moment. I drove to Jack London Square and found a full-on street party. In fact, driving from Oakland to Berkeley I saw people literally dancing in the streets all over. It was a day for the ages.
After soaking in the jubilant spirit of the day, I reluctantly wound my way back home. It was hard leaving the dancing and celebrating, but that’s not what made going home difficult. I knew what awaited me once I got back in front of the TV again and wanted to put it off for as long as possible. I think it was Rachel Maddow who announced what I already felt in my gut.
Prop. 8 was winning.
For the longest time, the 2008 election carried with it a bitter aftertaste. One identity danced in the streets over such a historic moment while the other’s second-class status had been confirmed and ordained by popular vote. In my worst nightmare, I could not imagine a crueler rending of my soul. During my lifetime, I had never experienced a reduction of my personhood. Indeed, having been born during the Civil Rights era, my personhood had only been enriched during my years on the planet. The Civil Rights Act passed the year before my birth and the Voting Rights Act came to life in the year of my birth. Stonewall happened when I was four. The vile Briggs Initiative, which would have forbade LGBT teachers in California, was defeated by a coalition of LGBT activists and their allies when I was a young teen and still wondering what gay was, though suspecting that I was a part of it.
By my understanding of how society should work, rights and respect increased over time. That’s how it was supposed to flow. Society should never work to diminish anyone’s personhood. But that’s exactly what Prop. 8 did. It singled out a population and took rights away from them, rights that had been confirmed only a few months earlier. It happened before our very eyes, and we all stood slack-faced and wondered, WTF?
What a different four years make. Election 2012 has no bitter aftertaste.
Four states voted for love and not for hate. Maine, Maryland, and Washington all voted in favor of marriage equality. And Minnesota voted down a bill that would have made marriage equality against the law. A lot of work went into these campaigns, and they undoubtedly learned from California’s mistakes. How exciting that their work paid off. I woke up the day after Election Day with a full heart instead of a divided soul.
Wisconsin elected Tammy Baldwin, making her the first ever LGBT US Senator. Meanwhile, voters in Missouri and Tennessee rejected wackjob GOP senatorial candidates Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock, respectively, who both made disgusting comments about rape and pregnancy. Good riddance.
And of course President Obama easily won reelection, despite four long years of effort to deny him of his personhood – aka, the birther business.
These results are all interconnected. The theme is personhood. The Republican Party ran a campaign based on the idea that some people do not deserve equal personhood. Women do not deserve control of their own bodies. Gays and lesbians do not deserve the right to marry or adopt children. Immigrants need to self-depart themselves. The poor have no voice. Mitt Romney ran for the white male vote, and that’s what he got a majority of. Unfortunately for him, more than white males went to the polls, to the shock and chagrin of conservative commentators everywhere.
Those within the Republican bubble chamber believed that lightening would not strike twice and that those “other” people would just stay home. They didn’t. There is something about trying to take away rights that make people want to fight that much harder for them. Thus, we had people standing in line for hours and hours to vote, determined to cast their ballots against all the obstacles thrown in their way by Republican governors and secretaries of state. Thus, we had women voting against men and women, from Romney/Ryan on down the ballot, who clearly did not have their health interests in mind. Thus, we had a swath of states decide not to fall for the old Karl Rove trick of bashing queers at the ballot box. President Obama’s public acceptance of marriage equality undoubtedly went a long way towards changing people’s hearts around the issue.
The very people whose citizenship the Republicans fought hard to suppress came out in force. How’s that for justice?
As many have said, the Republican Party of today is in danger of making itself obsolete. During various morning after talk shows, conservative commentators have opined that their message is fine, they just need to retool it a bit to reach a broader group of people. Uh, no. It is not the tone of the message that is offensive, but the message itself that is deeply flawed. The core values of today’s Republican Party want to deny the existence of scores of people whom they don’t want to be bothered with. They then wrap themselves up in their little bubble world and pretend that the reality they have created is reality. Well, the election proved otherwise. Eventually, the real world will catch up with you.
The Republicans want to dictate the terms of personhood. They can’t. Personhood is not something granted by the Supreme Court. It is not something you can buy on the stock exchange. Personhood is a birthright, an axiom. When the Republicans finally realize this, then they will have evolved. Until then, they are bucking against history, and losing.
© 2012, gar. All rights reserved.