Election evening was an amazing experience really, as there were two very different visions of our nation on display. Bill O'Reilly, a pundit on the right, bemoaned the direction of the country as being dominated by an electorate that wants "stuff," but that was a shallow and ultimately puerile assessment. What we have seen is a steady transformation of the American electorate, from the black and white country of our youth to a far more complex place.
This year, the rhetoric included self-deportation, an incredible slander that said to an entire community, "just leave." The preference of Republicans to castigate undocumented Americans ignores the intentional history of quiet, loosely patrolled borders that dates back at least to the 1986 Simpson-Mazzoli immigration reform that reflected a tacit compromise with an American business community starved for low cost labor wherein the federal government agreed to simply look the other way.
This is the same irony of seeing a parcel of hedge fund managers gathered at a fundraiser in Palm Beach as Mitt Romney preached about the unworthiness of 47% of Americans. Those hedge fund managers feed off of the balance sheets of the commercial banking sector as derivative counterparties and were every bit the beneficiaries of the bailout of the banks. Yet they preen themselves as masters of the universe, the makers of the new lexicon, and disdain the great unwashed whom they imagine would take what by devine right is theirs.
That is not necessarily easy for everyone to accept, but election night was a wake up call to many that it is a central reality of our country. Our country is a different place than it was forty years ago, and as difficult as the economic and other challenges might be, it was a reminder of how far we have come.