Sabato’s Crystal Ball: Lessons Spoke to Nation’s Mood
This article is republished courtesy of the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
As routine as elections may seem, they are the seminal events in the life of a democracy. Campaigns and elections not only set the direction of the Republic, they also shed light on America’s political health. Every November we have the opportunity to take stock of what we did at the polls, and what that says about the status of the 232-year-old American experiment.
The historical significance of what happened on November 4th is immediately obvious to all. The election of the first President of African-American descent is breathtaking, given what had come before in the nation and Virginia. But Barack Obama grasped the White House so deceptively easily in the Electoral College, including the thirteen votes of the New Dominion, that four centuries of often bitter race relations were obscured.
Slavery was an accepted, legally enshrined practice throughout much of America until the end of the Civil War. The economic underpinnings of what author Lawrence Goldstone called the United States’ constitutional “dark bargain” enforced a brutality so awful that young people today cringe when told the truth. Profits obliterated humanity.
The Emancipation Proclamation, issued more to win the war for the North than for the right reasons, yielded little for blacks after only a few years. All the promises of post-war equality faded into a sick society of white domination, “Jim Crow” laws, and the Ku Klux Klan. Voting rights disappeared; subjugation returned.