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This is what America looks like

Posted by Carol Rose, On Liberty  November 7, 2012 12:57 PM

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America awoke this morning to a newly-drawn political map, in which demographic trends translated into support for candidates who either support, or themselves represent, the growing demand for equal rights under the law.

No wonder Bill O'Reilly was heard to moan: "The white establishment is the minority. People want things."

He's right. They want equal rights under the law.

Consider the following: women, gay families and recent immigrants.

Senator Elizabeth Warren smashed a glass ceiling by becoming our Commonweath’s first female senator, while declaring, "I will not only be your senator, I will be your champion!" New Hampshire voters delivered an all-female hat-trick: Maggie Hassan was elected governor, and Carol Shea-Porter and Ann McLane Kuster won seats in Congress, giving the Granite state an all-female federal delegation.

Meanwhile, three states--Maine, Maryland and Washington State--put equal marriage rights to a popular ballot and won. You can feel the political groundswell against laws that discriminate against people based on whom they choose to marry. The momentum toward equal marriage rights is likely to grow in the next couple of weeks, when the U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled to decide whether it will take up one or both cases--the Gill case in Massachusetts and the ACLU’s Windsor case in New York--challenging federal laws that discriminate against people who are lawfully married in their home states.

Finally, there’s no way to ignore the rising collective voice of recent immigrants to our country who believe in the American dream, as did past immigrants to these shores. Obama acknowledged their clout when he spoke in his acceptance speech about the need for immigration reform to realize the "dreams"--as in "Dream Act"-- for the children of undocumented immigrants to this country who wish to prove themselves worthy of citizenship through military or other public service.

I witnessed the demographic transformation of our democracy first-hand yesterday, working as a nonpartisan election protection observer at an inner-city precinct in Worcester.

The vast majority of voters I saw were young and from communities of color. Many were first-time voters. Their native tongues included Spanish, Portuguese, Albanian, Russian, Thai, Vietnamese, Hindi and Chinese--probably others as well. Many brought their children--a few brought their parents. Some were nervous, others jubilant, and one woman cried tears of joy at her ability to vote in her first American election.

A surprising number were recently-returned military veterans--people who had served their country in uniform, and now were doing so by exercising their right to vote, often for the first time in their lives.

I found myself thinking about the hundreds of suffragettes and civil rights workers whose work in past generations made it possible for so many people--including any of us who are women or people of color--to vote. Watching the peaceful--if often messy and imperfect--election, including Mitt Romney and Scott Brown’s eloquent concessions speeches, I felt tremendous pride for our Commonwealth and our country.

This is what Democracy looks like.

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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About the author

Carol Rose is executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts. A lawyer and journalist, Carol has spent her career working for and writing about human rights and civil liberties, both in the United States and abroad. More »

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