The proverb reads: “”Every person is entitled to his or her personal preferences and tastes.” The midterm election of 2014 has been characterized by pundits and Washington insiders as a “wave” or “a rejection of the Obama agenda.” Those phrases ring with familiarity. Hosts on MSNBC like Andrea Mitchell grilled even Democratic winners on Election Day and stated that the president was a drag on their election and Obama’s unpopularity is unprecedented. Mitchell’s analysis is neither well thought out or novel but the same worn-out dialogue regurgitated on her network and others. This glibness only skims the surface of the election.
Across this country the American people who voted (approximately one-third of registered voters) and the two-thirds that did not registered an intrinsic response — a cry that can be characterized by the selfies that people today are enamored with: It’s all about me.
Examining the results show that although Republicans won more seats in the House and Senate, issues like raising minimum wage (a GOP pet peeve) also scored resounding victories in several states. The actual voters in this election, for all the political commercials they are exposed to or the ability to search for facts on the many avenues of communication that we have today, chose to vote with complete self interest and ignore the plight of others, or the logic of pragmatism and compassion in being “my brother’s keeper.”
Republicans did their best to scare the “scare-able,” who are guided by bigotry and a lack of knowledge that ISIS or Ebola or illegal immigrants were the invaders that would wreak havoc and end the life they knew. There is no question that the fear factor of the supposed Obama weakness in protecting this country resonated and became a subplot to these midterms. But there is certainly more than right-wing finagle at work.
In striving for greatness a nation delved into its very soul to at least begin to try and put itself in someone else’s shoes. A relative unknown — Barack Obama — struck a chord with the American people of hope and change and to work toward fairness. And the nation responded by giving him a mandate in the 2008 election with a resounding victory and both a Democratic House and Senate. Almost six years later, Americans fatigued from costly and ill-advised wars and an uneven economic recovery are unable to fathom why the phrase “we are all in this together” has meaning in their own personal life.
The indefatigable Republican Party has spent half a dozen years railing against Obama and walking a fine line between acknowledging racism and yet ignoring when those in its party use it as a weapon to dismember the Obama administration. Their agenda, including shutting down the government last year, proved once again that when it comes to defeating the president, the unthinkable is very much in play. This strategy combined with the pitfalls of Obama’s over-ambitious docket that lacked the infrastructure to make changes seamlessly have turned people away from their better angels toward inevitable cynicism.
So, for those not on food stamps, draconian cuts are acceptable; for those who don’t have a wife or a daughter with an unwanted pregnancy, women’s reproductive rights have little significance. And for the xenophobic, giving a path to citizenship (including children) is seen as an imminent threat and not a pragmatic solution with an economic benefit to the whole nation.
Measuring a nation’s greatness is an inexact science. Individual liberty and personal achievement never should be undersold or taken for granted. Still, collective responsibility and foresight to look beyond “Idols of the Mind” and search for equity are not a harbinger of the death knell of freedom in the United States.
When Americans coalesce, enterprises of greatness can be achieved. A country where people become preoccupied with self will fail to fulfill its potential and promise. American history reflects the consummation of both.