A couple of odds and ends plus some eduimplications from yesterday.
My election day tradition is that I like to help out at the polls for a while, pass out literature and sample ballots for candidates, etc…I find something very special in watching all your neighbors, and where I live that means people from all walks of life, come out and pick their leaders freely and together. In too many parts of the world such a simple and elegant act of human dignity is routinely denied. At our party we watched the returns last night with a friend from Central Asia, from a little town where my wife lived for a while in the Peace Corps. He came here through a challenging route to get asylum seeking many different kinds of freedom, the kinds we shouldn’t take for granted.
On a related note, like a lot of Democrats I know, I didn’t vote for Obama — in my case one of my two year old daughters did and many of my friends did the same thing with their children. She knew that Obama’s name started with a “B” and an “O” and that Mark Warner started with “M” and with a little real-time alphabet coaching found our candidate in our congressional race. And, on our machines the “vote now” button is a big bright orange thing so that was especially big fun. In fact, after voting she immediately started demanding to “let’s do it again” for the next half hour. She would have voted dozens of times if it were allowed. I can only assume that’s the influence of having two grandparents from Massachusetts but who knows.
Looking at the returns from yesterday a couple of things jump out and they do have short and long term eduimplications.
Watch the U.S. Senate. Although Obama racked up a very impressive electoral coalition and one that everyone in Washington will take note of, once business gets underway the U.S. Senate seems poised to become ground zero for a variety of legislative fights. Depending on the amount of discipline Republican leaders can enforce on their moderates, especially those from states Obama carried, the Senate could be a real challenge overall given its likely makeup. And, traditionally on the education issue that environment in the Senate has been messy because of the amendment process in that body.
Everyone reads the same exit polls. The economy was a key to the broader coalition Obama was able to assemble in this election and trumps other issues. That likely means (a) more rhetoric from our field about how education and the economy are linked and (b) despite that, second tier status for education for at least a while.
Equity Tension Ascendant? Again, the coalition Obama assembled was driven by a really staggering sense of economic anxiety in the electorate. That means there are some tensions in there around traditional divides on school reform. African-Americans broke for him hard, and increased their share of the electorate overall (more than young voters did it appears) and Obama performed better among Hispanics than Kerry did in 2004. And he made inroads among white voters. But, there is still a distinct coastal “wine track” to the coalition and looking ahead to 2012 you can expect Obama to want to boost his performance among white women. In 2000 Bush was able to do that by fuzzing up reform and talking about low-expectations and so forth. But now that there is a better understanding out there that real reform has an edge and, in the short term, requires picking some winners and losers if you really want to focus on traditionally ill-served students, balancing all this will be a tougher political act. But, if the last two years are a guide, this guy’s up to it.
Lincoln Ascendant? If my email, and my bias, are any indication, the explicit and implicit Lincoln references in Obama’s victory speech last night were a big hit. Apparently a bigger hit than FDR is among some commenters on this blog…
Finally, let’s hope Glenn Reynolds speaks for more people than himself. We do need a better politics given the challenges we face. But regardless of how you voted — or how your kids did — hopefully you agree that last night shows what a great country this is and despite our problems how incredibly blessed we are to be Americans on so many levels.