In light of the recent presidential election, I thought I’d share my thoughts on what the results mean for the country, and more importantly, for human rights.
The United States of America had 43 presidents prior to Obama’s original election to the platform. All of them were white males. For decades, white males have unwaveringly dominated the political scene, as racism and sexism have tainted not only our nation’s history, but the history of the world. The 2012 United States presidential election, however, serves as indelible proof that bigotry and senseless hatred are declining and quickly fading into the shadows of the past. The statistics are incredibly heartening: The first black president, Barack Obama, was reelected for a second term in office. 19 women were elected into the U.S. Senate – the most ever. The first openly gay senator was elected in Wisconsin. And for the first time, an all-women delegation was elected by a state, that being New Hampshire, where the two senators, two representatives, and governor are all women.
While this may not seem like a major breakthrough to someone who was born within the last two decades, the spectrum of history ensures us that it is. Up until the late 20th century, blacks were shamefully persecuted in this country, forced to bear the burden of a deeply racist society. Up until the early 20th century, women were denied the right to vote, and are still overcoming gender biases regarding occupation and expectations. Homosexuals have continuously been forced to hide within the fringes of an insecure people, enduring their own brutal forms of discrimination. The indisputable rise of these three social groups, among others, signals the beginning of a new era of equality. It demonstrates that we are becoming increasingly willing to have these people lead and represent us in the highest offices of government, and that we are beginning to judge people not by petty social differences, but by their ability to do a job and the moral compass with which they do it.
One can only imagine the strides we will continue to make in the future. However, it is clear to me that some regions of the country are modernizing quicker than others. Generally speaking, most studies indicate that the most educated regions of the United States are the Northeast, particularly New England, and the West Coast. Interestingly enough, these areas also happen to be the least religious. It is well known that the southern region of this country is by far the most devoutly religious – the Bible Belt encompasses essentially the entire Southeast. Additionally, they tend to lag behind their Northeast and West Coast counterparts in education, including quality of schools and number of college graduates. Southern states also tend to have higher teenage pregnancies than do other areas, indicating a lack of knowledge or education. The political variable in all of this is the stark and bold contrast in political leanings within these regions. The election demonstrated the dichotomy that has existed for quite a while now between the Northeast/West Coast and the Southeast/Southern Plains regions. Each and every Northeast state, along with each and every state on the West Coast voted blue (Democratically), or in other words, for President Obama. Governor Romney’s electoral votes were primarily from the Southeast and the heart of the country, including states like Texas, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Nebraska.
Now, I am certainly not trying to label anyone as inferior based on the region in which they live. However, these overlapping trends beg us to state the obvious. As Democrats are more liberal, favoring more domestic freedom that is untampered with by religious dogma, Republicans are more conservative, tending to attract the typical white, churchgoing male who favors a traditional society in which individual freedom is somewhat limited in order to maintain what is perceived as the societal order. Generally, Republicans oppose same-sex marriage, – which hinders the freedom of gays to express love for their partners – and abortion rights – which hinders the freedom of women to exert control over their own bodies. I would contend the the Democratic party is certainly the more socially progressive body, making judgments based on a critical analysis of the issue rather than unfounded religious beliefs. Now, while these are generalizations, they are reflected in the exit polls: Obama won the vote of women, gays/lesbians/bisexuals, and both black and latino minorities. Romney won the vote of both whites and males. What we can garner from all of this is a correlation between higher education, secularism, liberalism, social equality, and human rights.
I am not saying one side is right and the other is wrong. However, I am of the opinion that it is only a matter of time that the traditional, conservative political outlook is trumped by a more secular, liberal ideology that is already pervasive in the Northeast and West Coast. President Obama’s reelection is a strong indicator that this trend is beginning to manifest; no president has ever been reelected with an economy this low. Of course, I am not advocating for a struggling economy – but I am suggesting a shift from religious conservatism to secular liberalism, a shift that is exhibiting its endurance in a suffering economy and a still staunch resistance from an opposing Republican party. Furthermore, this political transition goes hand in hand with a movement of unprecedented social equality, signaling the end to cumbersome traditionalist dogma and the beginning of a movement for secularism, independent thought, and most of all, social equality.