Midtown: Community

Looking back on an educational election season

The proverbial Fat Lady won’t sing the final note until final vote tallies on Election Day. But she’s sure as heck warming her vocal chords as the rest of us navigate divisive campaign rhetoric to elect our president, and our states’ governors and legislators.

It’s been a lot to digest; a test of our morals and our memories, figuring to whom to listen and whom to question; determining truth from fiction, right from wrong, and good policy from bad policy when it comes to workers’ and women’s rights, our economy, health care, climate and national security and immigration.

What’s certain is all I really need to know about politics, I learned in this 2012 presidential election season:

• It’s going to take a village to protect our democracy and revive our economy.

• Even incumbents have off-kilter days. Good ones simply acknowledge the blow and do better next time.

• The desire to win, or at least to win over voters, can be cause to boldly stretch the truth or avoid it altogether.

• Southeast Raleigh voters remain powerful. During a Southeast Raleigh for Obama fundraiser in August, community advocate and political watchdog Brad Thompson explained Southeast Raleigh can affect who wins president. To be re-elected, he said, President Obama needs to win North Carolina, and therefore, Wake County and Southeast Raleigh, too.

• Eleanor Roosevelt’s “A woman is like a teabag; you never know how strong she is until she gets in hot water,” also holds true when she’s steeping over attacks to her right to choose and get equal pay. Sen. Kay Hagan brought it home in March at a women’s early-voting rally: “This is a crucial, critical election. We’ve got to be sure we get everybody out to vote,” she said, citing talk of “legitimate rape” and threats to Planned Parenthood funding and women’s access to contraception. “They would take us back to the social eras of the 1950s. This is not what we want. This is not what we deserve. We have clear choices in this election.”

• Having an African-American president turned incumbent spotlights our fixation on race and breeds campaigns laden with a dirty, mean-spiritedness reminiscent of the ’60s. Consider a political cartoon in the New York Post last week depicting “Obama” as a runaway slave chased by a rifle-and bayonet-toting “Romney” on horseback.

• We journalists are no longer the only ones who understand the value – and curse – of fact-checkers.

• All things are subject to marketing. Check for results of Family Circle’s cookie bake-off between First Lady Michelle Obama and Ann Romney, wife of Gov. Mitt Romney, the GOP pick for president.

• The church does have a vocal place in the public square, but it is misuse of religious leadership for our pastors to tell us for whom we should or shouldn’t vote. It’s our choice.

• When it comes to same-day registration and early voting, North Carolina – thanks to the NAACP, Democracy North Carolina and other grassroots coalitions – really does stand progressive. Long before the 2008 presidential election, North Carolina became the first Southern state to adopt the option. By Day 7 of this year’s early voting, more than 1 million had cast early votes.

• Grassroots efforts build formidable momentum as citizens embrace their civic duty, from registering people to vote to creating boomerang initiatives to reject divisive policies at the polls.

• Karma haunts – and, this time, her name’s Sandy. As New York City sits hurricane-drenched and damaged in an episodic era of extreme weather, it’s best if candidates accept climate change exists and support FEMA.

Surely, the list grows longer.

Raleigh mom and voter Jennifer Cuthbertson zeroes in on seeming contradictions, including women who support – and vote for – candidates who reject their rights and those of others.

“It has totally rocked my world,” she said. “How can you vote away your rights as a woman and how can you vote away someone else’s civil rights?”

Asked what he’d learned in this campaign cycle, Thompson said, “We do not control outcomes, but we do control our effort, and we do control our votes,” he said. “It is one area where capital is equal.

“It doesn’t matter if you’re a millionaire or a pauper...male or femaleblack or white. Everything is the same because the rule is one person, one vote.”

Grassroots community organizer Edward Jones created Southeast Raleigh for Obama to learn the political process and the community climate around it. “I’ve learned that the spirit of the people in Southeast Raleigh is not dead,” Jones said. “They are hungry for someone to take a position here in terms of leadership.”

Perhaps we’ve all learned the thing Robert Fulghum reminds us in his “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten”: “When you go out in the world, it’s best to hold hands and stick together.”