When the American people reelected President Barack Obama, they signaled that their vision of the United States is one of inclusion, optimism, and an understanding of the legitimate role of government in helping the country achieve prosperity. Americans do not dream small or think narrowly. This vision of our country manifests itself economically — through an understanding that government investment leads to long term benefits for the whole nation — and socially — as we understand that our differences make us stronger as we all strive together toward the same American Dream.
Throughout their campaign, President Obama and Vice President Biden repeatedly asserted the need for “investments in America” and described how “investing in the middle class will grow the economy.” They offered an investment theory of policymaking — spending some money now in order to reap greater economic rewards later — in sharp contrast to Romney’s theory of cutting spending at all costs.
The majority of voters cast their ballots for wise government investment. They rejected Romney’s theory of bone-deep cuts because they understand that zero investment means zero reward. Our entire economy — from Wall Street to the grocery store down the block — is built on investments. A store owner needs to first invest in his business — renting retail space, buying inventory, and hiring employees — before he can make a profit. Government has a similar role to play when it comes to our nation’s prosperity; the way to save the economy — and the country – is not to blindly cut government costs, but to implement policies that wisely invest government dollars to produce long-term benefits for the entire nation.
Believing the fairytale that that economic solutions only involve cutting costs — instead of analyzing costs and benefits together — leaves us with policies that stunt the country’s growth and compromise our democratic ideals. It leads to underfunded public education, crumbling infrastructure, mass incarceration of large segments of our labor force, and unnecessary foreclosures that destroy whole neighborhoods. The reelection of Obama signals a shift in voter consciousness away from this destructive theory of government policymaking and toward a productive and rational position.
The results of the election are also an affirmation of a vibrant and inclusive definition of what it means to be “American.” As the President recognized in his victory speech, this country was built by immigrants — by a minority seeking to escape oppression and find prosperity in a new land. This nation has grown into a superpower precisely because it is built on diversity, and the innovation and progress it creates.
The demographic coalition that voted for Obama is a complex mix. Obama won the votes of youth, women, African Americans, Latinos, Asians, gay and lesbian Americans, Jews, Christians, the wealthy, the unemployed, and autoworkers. They voted for a leader whose policies will help all of us achieve the American Dream.
They also voted for a black man with an ethnic name, an immigrant Muslim father, a white Christian mother, and an Asian sister. For many of us who look like the President or have names like his, our “Americanness” is continually questioned despite our rightful birth in this country. The continuing Presidency of Barack Obama serves to reinforce the legitimacy of all of us as Americans — regardless of our class, gender, ethnic origin, skin tone, sexual orientation, or religion.
This year’s election was not just about policies and politics. It was about a recommitment to our founding American ideals — inclusion, equality, and the drive that ensures we never stop working toward them.
(Kate Robards contributed to this piece.)