Marietta Pritchard: A new America under our roof
AMHERST — So we have a new/old president, for which I can only breathe a huge sigh of relief, and wish him well in a job that I can’t imagine anyone wanting. We also have a newly minted senator, a strong-minded, principled woman who I’m hoping will not be cowed by the Senate, the place sometimes referred to as “that august body,” and which still has a reputation for male clubbiness.
What we also have, and what the Romney partisans didn’t take account of, is a new electorate, where white males make up a minority, and the majority of voters consists of women and people who are not white, along with unmarried people and those who are not regular churchgoers.
After the election was over and I was able to exhale again, I looked around at my own family and realized that we are beginning to resemble the New America, much as some older members would prefer not to think so. My husband Bill’s family represents the old stock, with ancestors on his mother’s side having arrived on these shores from England not long after the Mayflower. His father’s clan came a couple of centuries later from Wales to settle in Pennsylvania’s coal-mining region. My own family were World War II immigrants from Central Europe.
Bill converted from his family’s rock-ribbed Republicanism to become a kind of quirky Democrat. I have remained more or less in the Roosevelt Democrat camp that my parents joined during the war, moving significantly to the left of their positions during the civil rights and women’s movements of the 1960’s and ’70s.
Since then, one of our sons has married a woman who was born in Ecuador, a longtime American citizen. Maria does not tend to align herself with categories like Latino, but rather with energetic entrepreneurs like herself. She maintains a highly individual and uncategorizable attitude toward politics. Our grandson, David, 11, who is fully bilingual in Spanish and English, formed his own opinion and sided with the Republicans in this election. He and I have had some serious conversations about many things, but not about politics — not yet, that is.
Meanwhile, like much of the New America, not all the family’s adults are in traditional marriages. One of our sons has a longstanding relationship with a woman with whom he does not share a house. And one of my nieces is in a committed, longterm, single-sex relationship. She and her partner and their son live in a state that does not yet recognize gay marriage, but I haven’t noticed that their full lives are limited by that fact. And although the extended family comprises honest, upstanding and morally sensitive people, only a few are churchgoers.
Furthermore, churchgoing or not, I cannot imagine any of the women in the family voting for a party that is represented by people who think rape is a gift from God.
So, if my own family is not exactly a microcosm of the New America, we are certainly more representative than anything the Republican establishment and their billionaire donors were imagining.
In adddition, what we all are is some of the notorious 47 percent who make use of government assistance. Yes, we accept Medicare, Social Security, the mortgage deduction and we fully expect that the federal government will continue to keep up the interstate highway system, inspect our food and drugs, keep our air and water clean, and help out in cases of disaster or military need.
Some of us were even beneficiaries of the Immigration and Naturalization Service. No, we didn’t build our relatively comfortable and secure lives all by ourselves.
Marietta Pritchard can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.