As recently as this summer, it looked as if the 2012 national elections had the potential to be nothing short of disastrous. Mitt Romney remained within striking distance of President Obama’s narrow lead, while the GOP seemed poised to increase its far-right majority in the House and threaten the Democratic majority in the Senate.
What a difference a few months makes.
Instead, on the morrow of the election we awoke to a far more favorable prospect. In addition to the reelection of President Obama, the Democrats increased their Senate majority and cut into the Republican majority in the House. Organized labor defeated a major anti-union ballot initiative in California and won a referendum to repeal the anti-union “emergency management” law in Michigan. Voters in four states approved gay mariage through referenda, while voters elsewhere voted against the drug war by legalizing the recreational use of marijuana. And instead of preparing to consolidate their power, the Republicans faced the prospect of pro- longed disarray, with its moderate and far-right factions already battling over the future direction of their party. A changing electorate gave lie to the mantra that the U.S. is fundamentally a center-right nation. The coalition of organized labor, African-Americans, Latinos, Asians, women (particularly single women), young adults, and progressives that delivered Obama both of his victories is growing and forms the basis of a majoritarian, social democratic political project.
We should reject the argument that demography is destiny, and that current demographic trends portend any specific political outcome. It’s entirely possible that the Right will succeed in maintaining its hegemony by integrating Latinos and Asians into a reconfigured white identity, as was the case with the Irish, Italians, and other ethnic groups who arrived during earlier waves of immigration.
But there’s no question that the large-scale changes underway create openings for our politics that haven’t ex- isted in a long time. For the first time in years, it feels as if the tide of history is slowly but surely moving with us, not against us. DSA is working hard to take advantage of these opportunities. This year, local activists around the country held numerous public events marking the 50th an- niversary of the publication of Michael Harrington’s The Other America. In collaboration with the National Political Committee, locals have also begun to organize GET UP trainings to give our activists the intellectual tools they need to understand our economy and effectively commu- nicate the socialist alternative. And in the coming months, DSA will roll out a new website and social media strategy to complement our work on the ground and bring us into the 21st century.
Still, the challenges that we face are great – and im- mediate. Just days after the election, President Obama and Democratic leaders in Congress signaled their willingness to agree to massive changes in Social Security and Medicare as part of a so-called “Grand Bargain” over taxes and entitlement spending. DSA activists in locals around the country need to mobilize against the proposed cuts and to demand tax increases on the wealthy.
We’ve said it many times in this space over the last few years, but it bears repeating. Our role is to push President Obama and Congressional Democrats hard to stop them from shredding what remains of our meager welfare state. The election didn’t signal an end to this battle, but rather the opening of a new and potentially dangerous phase. President Obama will never have to stand for reelection again, raising the possibility that he will sell out his base in a “Nixon goes to China” moment.
We can’t let that happen. This issue of Democratic Left focuses on how we can stop it. Read it, and keep pushing!