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Commentary: Election aftermath

Matt Robb is a 27-year-old from the Leelanau Peninsula, who believes in trying to make this a better world. He was a golf star at Michigan State University, but instead of turning pro, chose to become a high school teacher. After a few years in charter schools, he is now a teacher at Cody High School in Detroit.

On election night, at the precise moment Mitt Romney was making his concession speech, a man wearing a ski mask and a long coat approached Matt’s truck parked in his apartment’s garage.

He took out a can of spray paint and wrote the N word on his truck, followed by the word “lover.”  He was captured by a security camera, writing these two words over and over.

The election may be over, but some of our deepest prejudices are not. Early the next morning, I received an e-mail from a woman who lives in the Toledo suburbs. It said, in all capital letters, WE ARE NOW A COMMUNIST COUNTRY RULED BY A MUSLIM.

In other words, when it comes to enlightenment and tolerance, we still have work to do. Fortunately, these hate-filled bigots don’t represent a majority of Americans. If you believe in progress and tolerance, there’s a lot to celebrate in this week’s election.

President Obama ran for re-election in a dismal economy that has taken far longer to recover from the “Great Recession,“ than he promised or believed four years ago. His campaign inspired, if anything an even bigger torrent of lies and filth than four years ago.

But he won reelection. Obama is the first Democratic President since Franklin D. Roosevelt to get an absolute majority of the popular vote twice. When all the votes are counted, Obama will have defeated Romney by more than four million votes.

That’s not too shabby.

Nationally, it is clear that the fight over same-sex marriage is being won. For the first time, in Maryland, voters decided to legalize gay marriage. They voted not to make it illegal in Minnesota. Voters in Wisconsin elected a U.S. Senator who is proudly and openly gay.

That doesn’t mean there isn’t anything to worry about. There’s no guarantee that one of the deranged haters I have heard from may not conclude that America is beyond saving at the ballot box, and load up his truck with a fertilizer bomb.

But I don’t expect that to happen. Americans are not a “communist nation ruled by a Muslim,” but a highly diverse one who have twice chosen a highly educated, ethnically diverse president.

Here in our highly diverse state, President Obama won a near-landslide Tuesday, winning a majority even in white, blue-collar Macomb County, home of the famous Reagan Democrats.

Lisa Brown, the state representative who got in trouble for saying “vagina” in the legislature last year, was easily elected clerk of once-staunchly Republican Oakland County.

Yet we also have highly complex problems in Michigan, perhaps more than in most places. The auto industry, the mainstay of our economy, will never again be what it was. We have to find a new path to prosperity. Voters rejected hate this week, but embraced divided government. When the politicians go back to work, they have a clearer mandate than ever to get the job done.

Jack Lessenberry is Michigan Radio’s political analyst. Views expressed in the essays by Lessenberry are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of Michigan Radio, its management or the station licensee, The University of Michigan.