First, the good news. This sums things up nicely...
America has its first black president with Barack Obama defeating John McCain. Not only is this a historic first, but we also have a progressive leader who has some good ideas to repair the damage that has been done over the last 8 years.
Now that we're done doing our happy dances (or pouting in a corner and pointing your finger at Sarah Palin, if you happen to be a Republican), lets not forget that we were voting on more than just the president on Tuesday.
The good news is that the Democrats picked up a few more seats, making it easier for our new progressive leader to pass through his agenda. Dems picked up an additional 6 seats in the senate, giving them a 57-40 majority. The bad news is that they did not reach 60 seats, the magic number that will give the Democrats a fillibuster proof majority over the Republicans. Keep in mind that Republican fillibusters have been a huge reason why the Democrats have not been able to accomplish much since taking control in 2006 with a razor thin majority.
In more good news, women will be represented at a historic high in both houses. 17 women (13 Dems and 4 Reps) will be in the senate and 74 (57 Dems, 17 Reps) will be in the House. While I'm happy women are gaining ground in politics, we're still abysmally under-represented. Think about it. Women are 50% of the population, yet hold only 17% of the seats in congress.
In more good news, voter turnout in this election was at an all time high. Turnout is estimated at 64% of the eligible voting population, besting the previous high of 63% for 1960 election where JFK squared off against Richard Nixon. A quick look at the statistics for other presidential elections put voter turnout in the low to mid 50's. It's even lower in non-presidential election years, hanging somewhere in the 30 to 40 percent range. People were excited this time around. That's a good thing.
There were a few ballot initiatives I was keeping an eye on. It turns out that America is pro-choice but anti-gay. Sigh. Here's the run down.
The most well known ballot initiative in the country was California's proposition 8, a law banning gay marriage. An estimated $74M was spent on this ballot initiative, the most for any campaign this season after the presidential campaigns. I am incredibly sad that this passed. There is no word yet what will happen to the estimated 16,000 gay married couples in the state.
Another gay marriage ban, Ammendment 2, passed in Florida. And yet another anti-gay item passed in Arkansas. Act 1 banned gay couples from adopting or becoming foster parents. On a happier note, Question 1 in Connecticut failed. Question 1 would have paved the way for more anti-gay ammendments by changing the state's constitution.
On the pro-choice side of things, the big one, Colorado's Ammedment 48, failed by huge margin; about 73% voted no. I am extremely relieved that it failed so spectacularly, but still disheartened that it got on the ballot in the first place. The ammendment would have defined a fertilized egg as a human being, with full rights under law. Had this passed, not only would all forms of abortion be outlawed in the state, but it also would have affected in vitro fertilization and hormonal birth control. There is no word on whether or not an autopsy report would need to be filed every time a woman gets her period.
South Dakota's Measure 11, an outright ban on abortion in the state, also failed. This is the second attempt for this piece of anti-choice legislation aimed at challenging Roe v Wade. Measure 11 contained an exceptions for rape, incest, and health of the mother ('impending organ failure') that were not included in the 2006 bill. The good news is that it still failed. The bad news is that these anti-choice groups just won't go away and have vowed to put another abortion ban on the ballot for the 2010 election.
On a related note, Proposition 4 in California also failed. This was a parental notification law that required minors to wait 48 hours to have an abortion after a physician has informed her parents. Isn't that a wonderful thing to do to a kid who's already terrified? The law did give an exception so that another adult relative could be notified in the case of abuse, but the abuse needed to be reported to the police by the physician, and the court would then decide on a case by case basis. It's wonderful stuff for a very time-sensitive procedure.
Lastly, Initiative 424 in Nebraska passed. This will eliminate equal oppurtunity language from the state's constitution and bans affirmative action programs by state agencies. What does this mean? Among other things, state institutions, such as public schools and universities, can no longer offer scholarships for minority students.
In local news, Jim Douglas won his re-election bid for governor with enough votes to avoid a runoff election. No surprise there, though I would have liked to have seen a Progressive as governor. I did in fact vote for Anthony Pollina. I console myself with the thought that a Vermont Republican would be considered a liberal in other areas of the country.
Representative Peter Welch easily won his first re-election with over 80% of the vote. I'm glad. One of the reasons that I like him is that Vermont's lone representative is very responsive to questions and concerns. I am one of those annoying people that write letters to Congress. The responses that I've gotten back have been timely and worded so that they actually address the issue that I asked about in the first place.
Also, I was very happy to learn that Kesha Ram won her bid for state representative, upsetting Progresive incumbant Chris Pearson. Remember her name. I predict that we will have be hearing more from the 22 year old in the future.