Is America On The Edge Of A New Era?

A sea of progressive change in America...

A sea of progressive change in America…

In her end-of-the-year op-ed, Frida Ghitis states her case for believing that America is on the “cusp of social change.” She points to the support for marriage equality, the renewed discussion of gun control, tax reform and the loosening of marijuana laws all as signs of a coming American social revolution. For some of us this is a welcome shift in the status quo but others feel threatened, powerless to hold back the tides of change. What may come out of these feelings of impotence remains to be seen but let us be optimistic for now as we hope that we have created momentum.

Assuming that the do-nothing Congress manages to get its ducks in a row in the next couple of days – yes, a very optimistic view, I know – we can at least look forward to a continuance of the payroll tax break we’ve been getting. It may not seem like much but it is pretty significant. According to the Tax Policy Center, the payroll tax holiday affects 125 million households, which is a lot bigger than the number who would see a big spike in their income taxes. Even if the cap of  $1 million is used, between 368,000 and 2.5 million households would see an increase. So, if Congress can get its act together, it is likely that we can look forward to keeping that payroll tax at 4.2% and an extra $50-$167 in our paychecks. What does this have to do with the social revolution? Ms. Ghitis says:

It “deals with a fundamental social value, the role of government in society, and the way the burden of financing ought to be shared.”

In other words, those of us who believe that the government does have an obligation to help its citizens when we need such aid are finally being heard. That the Liberal way of thinking is finally making headway, and issues that the Conservatives thought they had won are now being re-assessed.

For example, same-sex marriage is becoming more and more mainstream. Four states have accepted it this year, three through affirmative state ballots, one in not allowing it to be banned. For the first time ever, polls show that a majority of Americans believe that marriage should be everyone’s right. In fact, gay rights – often called the new civil rights battle – are moving faster towards nationwide acceptance than women’s or minority rights did.

“Perhaps,” says Ms. Ghitis, “it was “Will and Grace” or “Glee” or President Obama’s long-delayed approval of same-sex marriage…”

More than likely it was a combination of many things but the upshot is that it is becoming more and more unpopular to make a big deal out of people’s sexual preference.

Marijuana used to be a completely uncontested issue. Yes, some states legalized it for medical use as long as all the proper paperwork is on file. But it is still on the DEA’s Schedule 1 list of “drugs with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.” Most Americans are coming to understand that this is untrue and that to have marijuana on the list of the very worst drugs, while cocaine is listed below it, is utter nonsense. Two states, Washington and Colorado, have legalized pot for recreational use (within reason) and we are sure to see a battle between those states and the Federal government. But the very fact that the majority in 2 states thinks that its time we end this prohibition, and 51% of all Americans agree, is a good sign.

Finally, we are talking about gun control, a subject so taboo that it makes the blood of almost every politician run cold. The NRA seemed to have a lock on this issue, wielding their power to prevent even the mention of gun control in our Congress. But the NRA, while most Americans approve of it, has a message that is fast becoming passé. The shootings at Sandy Hook have made us take a good, hard look at the gun-loving society we have become. Those who support new gun-control laws are again speaking out and demanding solutions. The NRA, of course, is fighting us every step of the way but now that the conversation has started, we must make sure that it continues.

As Americans, we know about fighting for change. It’s how we were born and how we have survived. It’s been a long road and we are still traveling it but if we keep pushing, keep talking, keep voting and making ourselves be heard, then maybe Ms. Ghitis is right. Maybe we are on the cusp of a sea change in this country. And that can only be for the best.