Muller: Better off after America elects pragmatism over ideology


Yoni Muller, Columnist

The last year was a political rollercoaster nobody could get off of, and everybody was tall enough to ride. Although there were points where we were stuck, where we were horrified and where we felt like throwing up, last night’s culmination made it all worthwhile.

The big news of the night was obviously the re-election of President Barack Obama. As a native Floridian who didn’t vote because my absentee ballot didn’t get here on time but would have voted for Obama, I can take joy in two things: people were chanting “four more years” in Chicago instead of “four new years” in Boston, and my entire state didn’t affect the outcome at all, so I can have peace of mind in my faux pas.

Barack Obama is not a perfect president, not by a long shot. (Teddy Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln are the only ones to get that honor in my book.) He’s made his share of disagreeable decisions, such as extending unemployment benefits to two years and failing to pass any sort of immigration reform. However, his fair record and exceptional character speak for themselves.

Obama has lead the country through more than two and a half years of uninterrupted job creation, saved the auto industry in a way that Mitt Romney’s bankruptcy plan wouldn’t and had a slew of foreign relations achievements. Most importantly, he has fought for the American middle class every single day he was in office and for years before that. He’s the first sitting president to endorse gay marriage, he passed the Affordable Care Act to help the 40 million of us without insurance, and he increased access to affordable student loans and grants – and this is all just in his presidency.

Before he even became a senator, Barack Obama was an Ivy League graduate and community organizer on top of the world who chose to empower Chicago residents through education. Barack Obama has his flaws as president, but his sincere compassion and determination to help 100 percent of Americans — not just 53 percent — is what made Tuesday night such an important victory.

Additionally, there were plenty of other races that went largely under the radar but deserve every bit as much recognition as the presidential race. If these elections showed us anything, it’s that pragmatism and ideas are much more important than strict ideology. We saw independent candidate Angus King win a seat as a senator from Maine, and both Richard Mourdock and Todd Akin lost their elections to more moderate candidates with a better understanding of rape and its consequences. Orrin Hatch unsurprisingly won re-election, and Rep. Richard Hanna (R-N.Y.) were decidedly re-elected as well. (Yeah, I like Republicans, too. See, bipartisanship?)

Of course, that’s not to say there were no letdowns. Scott Brown failed to win re-election, which is a shame given his successful and surprisingly pragmatic record. Other candidates who unfortunately suffered defeat were Michele Bachmann’s opponent Jim Graves, and Heather Wilson, the Rhodes Scholar Republican who ran for Senate in New Mexico. (Vermont also re-elected a socialist. Oops.) However, the most high-profile extremist candidates were largely shut out of office, and instead a slew of practical candidates willing to compromise found some room in the Capitol.

And of course, what would an election night be without some great state amendments and referenda to top everything off? Four states had votes dealing with gay marriage, and all four voted in a way that supports marriage equality. Maine became the first state ever to legalize gay marriage through a popular vote (kudos to Maine; between that and King, they were clearly on top of their game yesterday), and Washington and Maryland soon followed. Additionally, Florida rejected a proposal to ban state funding for abortions, and Maryland will now allow the children of undocumented workers to pay in-state tuition. Oh, and Colorado and Washington legalized recreational marijuana for people 21 or older, but those who were most interested in that are more likely to smoke this paper than read it.

All in all, last night was a game changer. Not only did Americas make the right choice in re-electing President Obama, but they also did so in a slew of state and local elections as well. Voters successfully fought back against the stringent ideologies of both the Tea Party and the more liberal Democrats and may very possibly have started reversing the trend in party polarity, instead choosing to vote for solutions and teamwork that can actually move this country forward. It was a great night to be an American, and it should lead to many more great days and nights to come.