Elections in the rearview mirror, through a social work lens

Like most people, I still have a lot of jumbled-up thoughts about Election Day on Tuesday.

I mean, mainly there is some relief–I had a 6-year-old whose world would have been shattered if Ohio had gone for Obama. And I really, really like that six-year-old.

But I also have the conversations–in this space and in my classroom and with social work colleagues–reverberating in my head, about whether the fiscal cliff means that big cuts in important social programs are coming no matter what, and about whether spending an estimated $6 billion to end up with the same basic political balance of power is, really a good investment.

I wonder about the dangers of equating activism with casting a ballot, and how that constrains our vision of ourselves as civic beings.

And I worry, a lot, about this call for Americans to ‘come together’, since I think this election exposes that we have very, very different ideas about a vision of our country’s future.

What does compromise mean, when people’s views about who should lead us broke down, to a large extent, along demographic lines? What will it take for a President Obama to come to an agreement on tax policy with Speaker Boehner, and what does it mean if he can’t, on any terms that we as social workers would want to accept?

What does it mean, for our future–that of our profession, and the policies that govern us, and the people we dedicate our careers to serve–that about 50% of the country prefers very different policies in almost all of areas where social workers practice (health care, welfare, education) than the other 50%?

If no one has a ‘mandate’, how do we move forward? Can standing at an impasse be a strategy, to hold the line?

What does ‘having a voice’, as so many people talked about in my social media feeds yesterday, referring to their votes, look like on November 8, 2012, instead of the 6th? How do we make our votes just the beginning, instead of the culmination?

Instead of getting back to normal, now that the ads that TV watchers see are done, how do we dedicate ourselves to a civic life that could result in a coming together that looks more like progress and less like capitulation?

I have more unanswered questions than I did two days ago, I think. And they are of more profound variety than, say, “what will turnout look like in Cuyahoga County?”

Anyone want to share some answers?

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