It wasn’t long ago that gay marriage was a wedge issue that consistently helped Republicans turn out the vote. It was part of the Republican playbook to plonk a gay marriage amendment on the ballot to get their base to the polls. Today’s results - the victory of Tammy Baldwin, the first openly gay senator, in Wisconsin; the legalization of gay marriage in Maine and Maryland – mark the beginning of the end of that strategy. This is the first time equal marriage has ever been approved by voters at the polls, and to win every battle is a triumph for the queer rights movement and a triumph for the better angels of America.
The tide has turned on the gay marriage battle, with Americans finally reaching for equality. The soul of the nation is embracing gay and lesbian people. Today Republicans lost more than the Presidency and a slew of Senate seats: they lost yet another wedge issue with which to divide this country. No more can they count on prejudice to bring out their base, and they must now realize that if you hit gays, we’ll hit back.
Women responded to attacks on their bodily rights by supporting the President some 55 to 45%, and throwing out anti-choice Republicans who wished to deny women their freedom to decide whether to continue a pregnancy even in the case of rape. All showing Republicans that, if they want to wage a “war on women” they are welcome to do so – and lose crucial votes for it.
And, all across the country, as millions of new Hispanic, African American and Asian American voters took to the polls, they used the opportunity of suffrage to repudiate a Republican Party which has in recent years ignored and denigrated them. The Romney campaign did practically nothing to reach out to non-white voters – 28% of this year’s electorate - and paid a heavy price as these rising new constituencies rebuffed their Presidential candidate as surely as he overlooked them.
The images of the activists surrounding Obama as he gave his victory speech tonight herald the rise of a new America – young, diverse, engaged, and progressive – a new political coalition and new “great generation” that will decisively change – has decisively changed - this country for the better.
And the images of Romney’s dejected campaign, drifting away after a decisive loss they didn’t expect – what of them? They demonstrate, too, a new and inspiring truth of American politics, a new truth which the Obama Coalition has made possible: that you can no longer use sexuality, race, immigration status, gender, and sex to divide the nation with impunity. If you try to play American against American – straights against gays, whites against blacks, women against men and against their own bodies - you will lose.
In his victory speech President Obama spoke of the responsibilities which come attached to the rights Americans enjoy: “Love, and Charity, and Duty, and Patriotism.” A defeated Republican Party must now struggle to remember and regain those virtues, restore their commitment to those responsibilities. And they must hearken to the new truth of American politics:
The wages of prejudice is loss.