Barack Obama defeated Mitt Romney to retain the presidency of the United States.
Of course, you know this. Everyone knows this. But I want to dwell on it, because although the election in 2008 was in many ways a more dramatic affair, the 2012 election might one day be considered more important. The election of 2008 was an election about hope. The election of 2012 will be about change.
For a law passed by both houses of Congress and signed by the president, Obamacare has had an awfully hard time sticking around. Obama’s lawyers had to pass it a second time in front of the Supreme Court. Mitt Romney, with the aid of a stubbornly Republican house, had promised to block its implementation. He was the last roadblock, the one man standing between every American’s access to affordable health care.
He has been swept aside.
If you are a college student, congratulations. Your America will join the rest of the world in having a modern health care system.
American tax policy has always been at the heart of America’s debt crisis. Obama was elected on a promise to lower taxes for most Americans. As president, he has passed tax cuts for middle and low income Americans. But he has also resisted giving those same cuts to the rich — a clear difference from not only Bush-era tax policy but also Gov. Romney’s promise to reduce the tax burden even further for the wealthiest among us.
Thus far, Obama’s quest to raise rates on the rich has been thwarted. But no longer — at the beginning of next year, the Bush-era tax cuts will expire.
Rates assessed on income above $250,000 will rise from 35 percent to Clinton’s 39.6 percent. Will this tax hike impede our economy? Will our “job creators” just pack up and go home? Or will new revenue prove at last a viable path to ending our government’s gaping deficit? For now, answers to these questions will be shaded by speculation and self-interest. Because of Obama’s victory, we will soon know for sure.
Another thing known for sure is that this nation’s Supreme Court will soon change. Currently dominated by a 5-4 conservative bloc, the liberals of the court have suffered defeat after defeat on issue after issue, Obamacare being the (notable) exception.
In these next four years, three justices stand a real chance of resigning. From most likely to least: Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Anthony Kennedy and Stephen Breyer. Whereas Romney had promised to nominate justices in the mold of Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, Obama gives liberals their first chance in a generation at reclaiming our nation’s jurisprudence.
The importance of the Supreme Court nominations cannot be overstated. The desegregation of schools, the ability of women to have abortions, the right to sleep with whomever you love — so many rights viewed as fundamental now were at one point guaranteed, not because of the popular will, but only because the right people at the right time held in their hands the ability to shape the life of our Constitution.
Obstacles will present themselves. John Boehner will remain the implacable opponent of the president’s policies. The debt ceiling approaches as the House Republican Conference laments modern-day social welfare spending. The ocean inches ever upward as our politicians look ever elsewhere. The fight to restore civil liberties continues, independent of any victorious night or resurgent presidency.
On a cold day in February 2007, Obama began his first presidential campaign in Springfield, Ill. He told us people who love and work for their country can change it. More than five years later, our country remains besotted by problems. Yet his fundamental point was, and is, correct. His re-election gives Americans a chance to prove it. Let the work continue. Let the results begin.