Publicly supporting a presidential candidate in such a polarizing campaign like this can be tough. If you’re
discussing who you like with someone that agrees, it’s a lot easier conversation than with someone that doesn’t…and man, this was a very difficult time to choose one way or another.
A little background: I’m about as middle of the road as you get. I traditionally have sided with Republicans on most issues, but also have a Democratic slant on others. When I was younger, I really liked Ronald Reagan and thought both Papa and Son Bush were the right selections in their respective elections. I don’t regret anything or anyone I’ve voted for, even the latter Bush. He made mistakes, but a lot of other people allowed him to make them. Our country spiraled out of control not thanks to one person, but to a LOT of people. No matter what, I feel our country did get safer since 9/11 and you have to give George Bush some credit for that.
But that was then and tonight’s election of Barack Obama as the next President of the United States is about to be now. His election to office was historic for so many reasons, but what I’ll always remember about these past months is how motivated people were in the political process for the first time in…boy, I don’t know when. Everyone had an opinion on whom they liked and why. Young people were inspired by what they were hearing…imagine that! I remember my French teacher from high school getting emotional when talking about the assassination of JFK and us not understanding – decades later – how a person could inspire those types of feelings. A legion of Americans were inspired by that person – a politician – and the hope he brought to a nation is paying dividends today with baby boomers that were motivated to do something. Kennedy’s famous quote ‘Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country’ should be a monument upon which anyone’s run for public office should be built.
The sheer amount of votes Obama won by should tell you something. The fact that he is African-American should tell you another about how far we’ve come as a nation, despite what seems to run in the back of our minds when it comes to issues like this. As I’m listening to people discuss the ramifications of what has happened tonight, the consensus is that no one can truly yet grasp this moment in our country’s history. The fact that race wasn’t made an issue by the candidates was astounding. The fact that others threw out words like ‘terrorist’ and other hateful terms underneath the radar unfortunately wasn’t astounding. Thankfully, more people than not rose above the sludge of racist comments and riterick. Perhaps there is help for those still left behind, but I fear that process will take a lot longer than four years to overcome.
If I were a Republican tonight, I would be disappointed but ready to take on what’s next. The blueprint has been laid out by the Democrats and the Obama campaign: find a high-energy and inspirational figure that will motivate young people and those in their 30s to be better than they are. Find a way to somehow change the perception of being ‘old, white and rich’ and take the next step into advancing your party into a world that demands options. Will that person be white, African-American, Latino? Will that person possibly be a woman? Regardless, the next Republican candidate will have to make a big splash and it will be a tough road to hoe. What happens next for Republicans will speak a lot about their character – and class- in losing. Again, this is coming from a guy who has traditionally voted with them. I was feeling McCain four years ago, but given what is going out there now, we need new ideas. I was never sold that we’d get them with another four years of Republican rule…or with Sarah Palin as Vice-President.
This can be a great night if people allow it. The fundamental problems with traditional politics is that when people’s parties lose, they can lose sight of the goal: a better city, a better state and a better country. (That WAS the goal to begin with, right?) A Republican lost, a Democrat won and there’s nothing that anyone can do to change that. What happens from here on out is what’s important.
If you can’t stand the fact that Obama won, don’t sit there for four years and grumble and complain and bitch. Rather, do something about it. Run for your own office, volunteer for others or do something to make the world a better place. It’s a hell of a lot easier to be faceless and do nothing, than to put yourself out there and do something. The world is full of bitter losers: don’t be one of them.
If you’re excited that Obama won, it’s now your time to ensure that he does what he promised and to immerse yourself more in the process. It’s not enough to simply be associated with the new hot face in politics. It’s time to act on everything he inspired you to do and not just be happy that ‘your guy’ won. If we try every day to improve our lives and those around us, maybe things won’t be as bad as you think. The world is full of do-nothing dreamers: don’t be one of them.
The night of November 4th, 2008, was either heart-warming or gut-wrenching for over 100 million Americans. As the hours move toward the morning of November 5th, our country will awaken to a beginning of a new era…and a new opportunity for the U.S. and its residents to be that much better than they were the day before. The question is whether we’re willing to embrace it.