This year's election offered a brutal lesson. Republicans were nicely set up, with more Democratic seats than Republican seats open, a stagnant economy and a voter disenfranchisement machine that was as clever as it was unconstitutional, operating in nearly every swing state with a Republican governor. Despite these obstacles, however, there emerged a clear mandate on coalition politics that broke against the Republicans. Three things in particular were very good for "undocuqueers": Latinos came out to vote in huge numbers, marriage equality won big at the ballot box and many gays were elected to office.
Undocuqueers (people who have undocumented status and identify as queer) have had a particularly difficult lot. In addition to all the problems they face as a result of being undocumented (e.g., no right to work, drive, vote, etc.), they have had difficulty fitting in with the immigrant community, which can be homophobic at times. While undocuqueers share with their straight counterparts the same heartbreaking stories of being unable to visit sick family members or attend funerals back home, they also have stories of being unable to marry the people they love because of their immigration status, and about how hard it is to come out of the closet as either undocumented or gay, let alone both. Undocumented immigrants are often closer with their families and more dependent upon their communities for support because of the circumstances of their immigration status, so for such individuals, coming out of the closet often has further-reaching implications. For example, should their families throw them out, they could find themselves homeless, with no right to work, and still deportable at any time. Although these stories will always remain, with all the political momentum from the election, a brighter future for undocuqueers is very easily imagined.
Latinos didn't just come out for this election. They came out big, casting a record number of votes, and more than 70 percent of them voted for Obama. This isn't particularly surprising, however, because Republican rhetoric on Latino issues had been pretty harsh since the primaries, and because Arizona's S.B. 1070, the Republicans' promise to veto the DREAM Act and calls for "self-deportation" energized Latinos to vote against the GOP. These are just a few of several reasons (in addition to things like the "rape caucus") that Republicans lost senate seats even though Democrats had more seats to defend.
As a sign of the times we now live in, gays won pretty big on Election Day: Maine, Maryland and Washington became the first states in the country to embrace marriage equality through a popular vote; Minnesota rejected a proposed amendment to the state constitution that would have limited marriage to opposite-sex couples; and West Virginia and North Dakota chose their first gay state legislators. Nearly every electoral indicator suggests that people aren't threatened by gays anymore. We're the Will & Grace generation that believes that a gay man is more likely to help us fix up our place and pick out nice shoes for a date than do all the awful things that conservative religious groups have long claimed. (And even the religious folks don't seem to mind gays as much).
All the cultural indicators suggest that Americans are OK with being gay, and the politics are catching up with the culture. (Remember, it was only a few election cycles ago that George W. Bush was able to ride his opposition to gay marriage to the presidency, but today such a position would cost a national politician more than it would help him or her.) People are also increasingly comfortable with the idea of offering undocumented immigrants citizenship. According to the latest poll cited by ABC News, a majority of Americans support offering undocumented immigrants a pathway toward citizenship. This comes in addition to the president's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. When the country sees that Joe Arpaio and Lou Dobbs were wrong and that undocumented Mexican immigrants won't invade when we allow DREAMers to stay and work, we can expect to see sentiment toward immigration improve.
More immediate relief will require that Republicans read the election results and decipher reality from them. So far so good: Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal turned on Mitt Romney when he explained his loss as being the result of Obama offering "gifts" to young voters (tuition breaks), women voters (contraception) and Latino voters (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals). New Jersey Gov. Christie joined Gov. Jindal with similar remarks in which he called for the GOP to expand its appeal and referred to Romney's "gifts" comment as "divisive." Does this mean that it's all changed? Not really: Jindal blasted a man on his way out with little ability to defend himself, which is like beating up a great cage fighter who is now too weak from leukemia to defend himself. However, it does mean they're at least seizing cheap opportunities to look good to Latino voters, and substance may follow.
If the GOP hasn't learned yet, relief is still on the way, but it may take a little while before the Democrats piece together a supermajority after the Republicans have blundered through another election. In the next election they may not have billionaires lining up to lose millions of dollars on political bets, an unemployment rate that the Republicans can harp on and more Democratic seats than Republican seats open for reelection; they struck out when everything was set up on a tee for them, and they'll only do the same thing if they don't figure out and act on why that all blew up in their face. If they do, all the roads to a coalition pass through gay and Latino organizer territory, hence leading to a better life for undocuqueers.
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