Four years ago, I was able to vote for the first time. There is something special about the first ballot you cast, and in 2008 it seemed more important. The nation was more divided than it ever had been in my short lifetime, and the idea of my opinion having an impact was enchanting.
I remember election night; I crowded into the basement in front of the TV with friends and family as we gazed in awe, chatting about our predictions. The race was over much quicker than expected with Obama defeating John McCain in a landslide victory.
No one really knew what this meant. Obama had preached change, but that is a hard thing to define. The most memorable part of that night was the crowd at Grant Park in downtown Chicago. The size of the crowd was unbelievable, with the New York Times reporting it could have been as big as 240,000 people.
Then Obama gave a chilling speech that was undoubtedly inspiring for Democrats and Republicans alike.
Going into the 2012 election, I thought it would be completely different. The race was supposed to be tight, possibly taking all night for the votes to be counted. Romney jumped off to a sizable lead, but none of the battleground states had been counted yet.
Then Obama took off, winning every key battleground state on his way to tallying up 303 electoral votes. CNN called the election at 10:15 p.m. Eastern time and although it wasn’t a landslide victory with the popular vote, it was far from the nail-biter people expected.
Then again, at about 2 a.m. Eastern, Obama came out to give his acceptance speech. It was an Obama that I hadn’t seen in four years. He was inspiring, motivating, but also more mature. He didn’t preach the wildly optimistic things that he did in 2008, but rather the importance of being realistic with expectations for the next four years.
A popular theme for the Romney/Ryan party while on the campaign trail was the notion that nothing had changed in the last four years. Sure, maybe policy didn’t change as drastically as people initially thought, but throughout last night I was constantly reminded that America has changed greatly in the past four years.
The 2012 election night was tweeted about more than any other political event in US history, according to the LA Times. People no longer feel the need to personalize their vote; they want to shout it from a digital mountaintop.
During most of the acceptance speech there was a woman standing over Obama’s left shoulder who stuck a flag in her hair. Within seconds she was trending on Twitter as Flaghead and YoungOprah, because she had a striking resemblance to Oprah Winfrey. Today, the Internet is already flooded with memes of flaghead, something that would have never happened in the infant days of Twitter back in ’08.
Aside from lighthearted fun on social media, some major decisions were made last night. Colorado and Washington became the first states in the nation to lift the prohibition on marijuana. My feeling is that many other states will follow suit in the years to come.
Gay marriage was legalized in Maine, Maryland, and (most likely) Washington. New Hampshire became the first state with an all-female delegation with the election of Ann McLane Kuster and Carol Shea-Porter while Massachusetts elected their first female senator, Elizabeth Warren. Wisconsin elected Tammy Baldwin, who became the first openly gay woman elected to the senate.
Last night surely dolled out flashbacks to 2008 when the country felt they were opening the doors to a future sure to shake the world, but it also stressed the importance of being realistic with expectations. In my eyes, the notion that we as a nation have not progressed is ludicrous.
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