By Ted Braun
This past election brought a shocking revelation to many people in our country. The power of white males that has been controlling the political life of our nation since its beginning was shown to be in decline. A coalition made up of women, minority, and young voters had won a second term for President Obama.
The outcome was unexpected by many, including Romney who had to cancel the fireworks display in the Boston harbor that he had set up to celebrate his victory. The long-term effort of the birther movement to cast suspicion on Obama's presidential credentials, the continuing effort of the Republican majority in the House of Representatives to block Obama's economic initiatives, and the Tea Party's effort to build grass roots opposition to the powers of the federal government—all of these were not enough to change the outcome.
All three of these efforts, however, and the election itself, have helped fuel a secessionist movement—one that can be found in all fifty states but is strongest in the former Confederate states in the South. Petitions on behalf of secession are now being signed by conservatives and then sent on to the White House. Our Tennessee version states: "We petition the Obama administration to: Peacefully grant the State of Tennessee to withdraw from the United States of America and create its own NEW government." One doubts, however, whether this petition will have much of an impact either in Tennessee or in the White House. One suspects that it serves more as a way to show the displeasure of those on the losing side of the election.
A greater challenge to the well-being of our nation will be taking place soon in a number of states. Starting in January, a single party will hold the governor's office and majorities in thirty-seven states, the largest number in sixty years. This single-party control will probably mean more partisan agendas as Democrats try to expand personal liberties and social and economic support systems and Republicans try to restrict them. This will be a challenge especially for our region since Republicans have now gained control of the old Confederate South (except for Arkansas which will be the only such state with a Democratic governor).
Another serious problem confronting us is the right's longtime demonization of the federal government and its role in our national life. Participants in this demonization would prefer that the states be declared "sovereign" and "independent," with the federal government having only very limited powers. They would like, in practice, to go back to the organizing principles of the original Articles of Confederation. Our founding fathers, however, realized quite early in the game that our nation needed a strong central government under the Constitution with power to act on matters of national interest, including efforts to promote the "general welfare." Thus the Tenth Amendment reserved to the states and individuals only powers not granted to the federal government under the Constitution.
During recent decades Democrats have struggled to protect the core programs of the 1930s and 1960s such as Social Security and Medicare. Unfortunately, however, they have made major concessions on issues like Wall Street and corporate regulations, enabling freewheeling casino capitalism to return.
These are some of the issues confronting us as we move into the next four years. As columnist Charles M. Blow has written, "Once again this country finds itself increasingly divided and pondering the future of this great nation and the very ideas of liberty and equality for all. The gap is growing between liberals and conservatives, the rich and the not rich, intergenerational privilege and new immigrant power, patriarchy and gender equality, the expanders of liberty and the withholders of it."
And here in Tennessee, we are on the front lines of this challenge before us. It will be an exciting four years.