Call me an optimist, but I think November's repudiation of Bush Administration policies was a sign that "the times they are achanging," and--even more significantly--a sign that Americans are beginning to recognize that "values" are considerably more complicated than ostentatious, "look how devout and biblical I am" Christianism.
That message was conveyed in the votes on various state referenda. Yes, several same-sex marriage bans passed, but the margins were considerably smaller than in previous election cycles, and for the very first time, one such ban was actually defeated at the polls. And in Arizona, a red state!
The return to social sanity wasn't confined to Arizona, or to same-sex marriage. A near-total ban on abortion was overturned in North Dakota, and voters in Missouri and elsewhere across the country refused to buy a "morality" that equates a mass of cellular material with a suffering human person, and supported embryonic stem cell research. Furthermore, by handing control of both the House and Senate to Democrats, and thereby changing legislative leadership, they effectively voted to take global warming and judicial selection seriously.
Most of all, the vote on November 7th signalled a retreat from the moral arrogance that has characterized this Administration. True, the rejection came largely because Bush's stubbornness and arrogance got us mired down in Iraq, but also (I think) because of a dawning recognition that moral arrogance grounded in a very immature religiosity is the root cause not just of our diminished standing in the world, but also of much of our internal civic discord.
Little by little, it is dawning on Americans that genuine, authentic religion is characterized by humility and compassion and respect for the deeply held beliefs of others--that authentic religiosity is not compatible with the theocratic tendencies exhibited by many on the Religious Right and so enthusiastically represented by the Bush Administration.
Of all the harm done by religious zealots, the harm being suffered by gay and lesbian citizens is arguably the greatest, because the religious right is willing and eager to use the power of the state to disadvantage those who offend their particular religious convictions. Don't fool yourself into a belief that these religious warriors will be content with simply denying same-sex couples the right to marry. In states where they have managed to get their bans passed, they have then gone to court to argue for an expansive reading of those measures in order to deprive gay citizens of employment benefits, legal protections against abuse, and a variety of other rights. Scratch the surface of one of these self-styled "godly" folks, and you'll find a clone of Fred Phelps.
Any gay or gay-friendly activist who has debated one of these ideologues can attest to the frustration of that exercise. It's like arguing with a brick wall. Policy arguments are met with self-satisfied, if unresponsive, retorts all of which boil down to "because the bible says so." When confronted with biblical interpretations other than their own, these folks simply dismiss them as false. And how do they know whose interpretation of the bible is true and whose is false? They "just do." It's breathtaking--and maddening. And these last few years, it has sometimes seemed as if these zealots were multiplying.
If I am reading the electoral tea leaves correctly, however, they not only aren't multiplying, but the tide is turning. The pendulum is swinging. The grownups are reasserting control. Pick your metaphor.
As for me, I'm wallowing in an emotion that has been all too rare since 2000--a good mood.