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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Book of Matthew: Election Reality Check: Want change? Stay focused and don’t get lazy

Published: November 7, 2008
Section: Opinions

On November 4, 2008, the voters made their voices heard. Barack Hussein Obama is now President-Elect of the United States.

This day marked the end of the longest presidential campaign in American history, an extraordinary campaign that involved a woman, an African-American, a former POW, and many other distinguished members of both political parties.

Obama supporters, you know only too well how long and difficult this journey has been. Some of you have been a part of it since the very beginning, February 10, 2007, when Obama formally announced his candidacy in front of the Old State Capital in Springfield, Illinois. Some of you joined after hearing him speak during the early primary season, or after Senator Clinton ended her own campaign, or even after the Democratic National Convention.

You made millions of small donations. You knocked on doors. You held signs. You wrote extensively, plastering both print media and the Internet with words of support. You voted.

Because of your help, Barack Obama did not have to wage a legal battle in order to win an election that was “too close to call”. Instead, he received about 7 million popular votes and 200 electoral votes more than Senator McCain. As far as Presidential elections go, that is a comfortable margin of victory.

On top of this, Democrats increased their majorities in both houses of Congress. In the Senate, the Democrats gained six (not including the currently undecided Senate elections in Minnesota, Georgia, and Alaska). In the House of Representatives, the Democrats picked up 18 (also not including a few elections that have not been finalized yet).

So for all of you out there who have been waiting eight years, if not more, for progressive change in this country, this is our chance. We have Democratic leadership across the board. Feels pretty good, doesn’t it?

Okay. Well that’s it for the feel-good column.

Unfortunately, many aspects of this election did not work out very well for Progressives. For one, we failed to pick up the full 60 Senator, Lieberman-free, filibuster-proof majority in the Senate; something that we’re going to wish we had when the Republicans begin to fight us tooth-and-nail.

But what disturbs me more are the results to many of the ballot initiatives that were voted on Tuesday. Allow me to list some of them:

In Arizona and Florida, ballot initiatives were passed that will amend their state constitutions, defining “marriage” as a union between a man and a woman and prohibiting the states from recognizing same-sex marriages performed in other states. In California, a similar initiative passed that will overturn the recent California Supreme Court decision ruling that allowed same-sex marriage.

Arkansas, a state that already prohibits same-sex marriage, went a step further in taking away the rights from homosexuals. An initiative was passed that will prohibit unmarried couples who live together from adopting or being foster parents.

This is but a glimpse of the Religious Right without a majority in the Federal government. They will continue to rely on state influence in order to convince Americans that it is okay to deny a small segment of our population the rights to Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. We have certainly not changed this country if their fiery sermons still garnish overwhelming support.

In writing this, I do not mean to ruin the jubilant mood among my fellow Obama supporters. I too have spent the past couple of days walking around with a smile on my face, and I know I’m not alone.

But we cannot afford to be complacent. We cannot sit back and assume that with Obama as president, everyone will come together and everything will be okay. The Religious Right is still strong, and it still dominates the Republican Party. They will work hard to fight us at every turn, and if we care for even one second about the future of the American people, we will work hard as well.

So stay alert and stay informed. We have at least two years of Democratic control of the government. Let’s not waste it.