Elections Past and Present

Every four years, at a minimum, I watch election night returns. Some years are permanently inscribed in my memory, others are only vague recollections.

I remember election night 1992: the first presidential election in which I’d voted (via an absentee ballot to Massachusetts because I was in college in Oregon). However, on that Tuesday evening, I was not in Oregon. I, my girlfriend, and two others had driven up from Portland to Vancouver, B.C., for a U2 concert (Achtung Baby). It was during this concert that Bono announced, for any of us in the crowd who happened to be from down south, that Bill Clinton had won the election.

While I don’t recall 1996, 2000 is seared into my personal history as well as the history of the United States. For those who may have forgotten, that was the year when Bush-2 may or may not have defeated Gore. It was also my first wedding anniversary. I recall jubilation as they first called it for Gore. Then despair as they began to call it for Bush, and then confusion for weeks as they didn’t know who to call it for.

2004, is a bit hazier in my recollection, though I recall being not particularly surprised at Kerry’s loss.

Then came 2008: Obama’s landslide victory. I was at CubeSpace. The country had just entered what many of us suspected would be the worst economic slide since the Great Depression. Wars in Afghanistan and Iraq raged. And on that night, the world seemed like a brighter place. Four years later, I read back over my thoughts following that election, and sigh.

Last night, while Obama won again, my feeling was more relief than anything else: it wasn’t as bad as it could have been. But all of my hopes that Obama would bring a brighter future, and a different sensibility to Washington DC, those have been crushed by four years of rancorous partisan debate, and an increasing sense that the current two-party system functions only to fuel an increasingly myopic beltway culture.

Feeling disillusioned with an Obama presidency, I wonder if I will ever again be able to bring that sense of hope and expectation to political change, or whether it will take a new generation of voters. Voters who have not had their hopes for progress crushed time after time, as candidates found the political realities far more complex than their campaign slogans made them seem.

And yet, I know, that in another four years, I will again be watching election night returns, awaiting a glimpse of the future direction of our country.

A New Hope

I am overflowing this morning. I am filled with a sense of gratitude and wonder. I am filled by a sense of hope. I am filled by a sense of patriotism which I have not felt in a long time.

The election of Barrack Obama yesterday is not does not simply signify a move away from Republican policies and attitudes (though it does signify that as well), but marks a new era for America. Not because Barrack is an African-American, but because he, like another president, almost 50 years ago, represents a bright new face on the scene, a new attitude and a new vision. 

Barrack Obama truly seems to be coming from a less partisan place. He is not of the Democratic Party establishment as Hilary would have been. He has spent only 4 years in congress. He brings with him less baggage, more hope. 

I am filled this morning with the hope that our country will begin to heal from the vicious bifurcation we have suffered at the hands of our political leaders over the past decades. I am filled with a hope that we have elected president a person who will lead us past the petty differences that divide us, and help us to see the deep connections which bind us together as one country, one people.

I am filled with a new sense of possibility, that perhaps the age of American relevance is not quite at an end. I begin to hope that this economic downturn perhaps will not be seen as the beginning of the fall of the American Empire, but maybe even the start of a new golden age of peace and sustainability (note: I did not say “peace and prosperity”). I am filled this morning with the hope that we will be able to move forward as a country rather than endlessly running around in circles. 

This morning, I believe that a new age may be dawning for us. We will have a president who is a pleaure to listen to, whether or not we agree with his ideas. Once again, rhetoric, in the best possible sense, will be a part of public discourse. 

This morning feels like it belongs to a different world than did yesterday morning, and it feels like a better world.