Not since 1988, when Republican George H.W. Bush won the presidency by about 7%, have we had a presidential election won by a clear majority. President Clinton served eight years with a plurality of votes, and George W. Bush served eight years with less than a majority the first term, and at best a disputed majority of 1.4% the second term. Americans under 40 years old like myself have spent all or almost all of our adult lives with America voters splitting their votes. The years were often trying. Salaries for many Americans have stagnated or dropped since the mid-1970s. Health care became more expensive and less accessible for more and more Americans. The basic necessities of Americans were not met, they went unaddressed and they got worse. Our politics seemed broken.
Diverse books written during the time, W. Carey McWilliam’s “The Politics of Disappointment,” E.J. Dionne’s “Why Americans Hate Politics,” Barbara Ehrenreich’s “Nickle and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By In America,” and Al Franken’s “Lies (And the Lying Liars Who Tell Them),” among others tell the tale of our politics.
The response to this election represents a recognition that things have gone wrong. But the record turnout for this election is a response not just to what has gone wrong, but a belief that finally things might start to go right.
Barack Obama is not a miracle worker – but I do believe he understands the lack of American jobs with decent wages. I expect an economic stimulus package that will rebuild America’s crumbling infrastructure and provide good construction jobs. Developing renewable fuels and “green” technologies may also help, along with more jobs in health care created in response to covering everyone.
Barack Obama is not a miracle worker – but I do believe he will find a way for all Americans to have access to health care. It may not be the single-payer solution I and many others believe is the right way to go, but it will be better and more comprehensive than what we have today.
Barack Obama’s presidency represents a political restoration, not a completion, but a restoration. America needs a politics capable of addressing our needs – it’s the least we can ask of our elected officials. It’s at least what Barack Obama offers.