The Morning After Election 2012

Today is a great day for America, though perhaps you can say that after any presidential election.  We came, we voted, we decided.  Every election day is a great day for democracy.

I remember being a child watching the states being colored in red and blue.  I remember staying up later than usual on those nights as my parents were glued to the TV.  I remember, when I was a little older, caring about those results alongside my parents.

I grew up in a family that cared about politics.  We believed, and still believe, that election results have the power to impact the world or at least our world.  When I turned 18 the first thing I did was register to vote.  That was in 1999 and the first vote I cast was in 2000 for Al Gore.  I suppose that election should have left a bitter taste in my mouth, considering the (still controversial) fact that Gore won the popular vote, but lost the electoral college vote – only the 4th time in history for that to happen. In 2000, the controversy regarding the recount in Florida was the big news post election day.  But I still believed in the system.

When I lived in Japan from 2005 to 2008, I got a look from the outside at American politics.  In the lead up to the 2008 election, the Japanese people focused on the primaries between Hilary and Obama.  To them, the fact that a woman or a black man were the top contenders was intriguing.  They had far less interest in the Republican nominees.  Once Obama won the nomination, the Japanese people I talked to overwhelmingly favored him over McCain (those who even realized who the Republican nominee was), giving me a window into how those outside of the USA viewed the best choice for our country.

I didn’t vote in the primary that year.  I didn’t order my absentee ballot in time, and I was divided.  I supported Hilary Clinton, on the one hand, for being a strong and capable woman and as a feminist I can’t wait to see a women in the White House.  On the other hand, I loved Barack Obama’s message of hope and change.  That year I felt that the Democrats couldn’t go wrong no matter who they had on the ticket.  Seeing how much people in Japan disliked and disrespected George W. Bush made me ready for a time where their public opinion would shift, and I felt that a Democrat in the White House would do that.

When I got back to the USA in the summer of 2008, I was ready to cast my vote for Obama.  There were some things I liked, or at least respected, about McCain, but I’m very much a liberal and while I have voted Republican on the occasional position, it has never been for a Republican president as of yet.  However, the choice of Sarah Palin and her extreme views made me support Obama even more wholeheartedly.  When he won the election in 2008 I rejoiced.

Now, four years later, I was proud to wait 3 hours in line to cast my vote for Obama in Miami-Dade County, Florida.  Yet what makes me proudest is our right to vote at all.  We have the freedom to vote, free from coercion or intimidation.  Many countries undergo revolution and turmoil in order to get this right.  And we have it. All Americans have it.  I would like everyone, whether they agree with my political views or not to exercise that right, which we are so lucky to have.

While I was waiting in line, I met a middle-aged Cuban woman who was standing behind me.  She was with a group who came up to me when I was at the end of the line and asked me something in Spanish.  I couldn’t understand, but she graciously translated for me and started talking.  She started talking about her experience coming to the USA from Cuba at 16.  She said that in Cuba look what had happened with socialism.  That was why she opposed any hint of socialism and that was why she felt it was time for someone else to take office.

This was interesting to me, because it gave me a different perspective.  I don’t believe that the recent healthcare reform is socialism at all, or really any of the other positions of the current administration.  I also see a key distinction between different forms or implementations of socialism and we have the balance of democracy in the USA.  To her the fear of anything resembling her experience in Cuba happening here was enough.  It made me think about why Cuban-American’s vote more Republican than any other Hispanic groups.  I didn’t tell her who I was voting for, because I was afraid it would end up in an argument (and after all, we had 2 more hours to g0), but I really glad to have gained that experience and perspective.  I never really thought before about why the socialism argument works so well with certain groups, but she broadened my mind.

Seeing so many people wait in line for so long in Florida made me so proud that so many were out to vote.  It made me angry at the inefficiencies in Florida, particularly Miami-Dade, and I blame Governor Rock Scott who choose to reduce early voting this year from 14 days to 8 (among many other reasons why I dislike him).  I’ve voted in 4 presidential elections, and I’ve never had to wait more than 1 hour in any other state to cast my vote.  Voting is important and we should make it easy for those qualified to do it.  No one should have to wait 5+ hours to vote.

As I write this, the election results here are still too close to call, showing how deeply divided of a state Florida is politically. At the local level, the number of signs for Romney-Ryan, Alex Diaz de la Portilla, and other Republican candidates were widespread.  I’m proud to report that at the local level many of the Democratic challengers succeeded at taking the seat.  The three Supreme Court Justices, who are none partisan and yet were targeted by conservative groups for removal, all were retained by a large margin.  Even better, three of the most controversial amendments were rejected:

  • Amendment 6 regarding banning the use of public funds for abortion and stating that the state’s protections of abortion cannot be greater than the federal ones, which would have had long-term impact on the right to privacy that currently protects a woman’s right to choose here in Florida.
  • The amendment regarding health care services that would have rejected stipulations of the Affordable Healthcare Act was also voted down by the voters.
  • Lastly, the amendment to allow religious institutions more flexibility with use of public funds and would likely have been used to support school vouchers was also rejected.

Last night I watched the election results come in.  I felt like  the USA was holding it’s breath.  When the final results came in, I had the TV on mute, thinking it would be a while longer before they’d be able to call it.  My husband said to me, “Looks like Obama just won!’  I looked at the TV and turned on the sound.  I couldn’t believe it.

I was already excited about the wins of Democratic women all over – from Tammy Duckworth and Tammy Baldwin, to Claire McCaskill and Elizabeth Warren – but the win from Obama seemed unbelievable.  I couldn’t believe that my state, Florida, wouldn’t even play into the final decision.  I double checked Twitter and Facebook to make sure what I was seeing on NBC was true.  And it was!  I texted my best friend with the news and she called me right back. She couldn’t believe it either.

However, it wasn’t until I woke up this morning and confirmed the news that it sunk in.

Obama’s reelection along with 4 same-sex marriage laws passed brought tears to my eyes.  I feel optimistic for the next four years, for on-going progress, for more time for Obama to do more.  We are truly blessed to live in a democracy where our voices can be heard.  And the people have spoken.

So what will happen next?  I was hoping that the results of this election would give the Republican party a reason for reflection on their dramatically conservative positions.  With McCaskill trouncing Akin, best known for his ignorant comments about “illegitimate rape”, and other Democratic victories all over the nation in my mind I see the message that many of us are rejected the extremely right-wing social conservative policies in favor of more progressively liberal ones.  Perhaps the GOP needs to reexamine what they stand for and whether the more moderate Republican party of old is where they should be headed.

Unfortunately, I doubt it.  I’ve already read articles claiming that Romney was not conservative enough!  But I wonder.  Would the Romney who was the governor of Massachusetts have stood a better chance than the far more conservative Romney who distanced himself from his fairly moderate beliefs in order to get the Republican nomination?

For me there are two major factors that make me a progressive liberal and cause me to reject much of what the GOP currently stands for: I believe that government has an obligation to help those less fortunate and I am socially very liberal.  I can get behind fiscal conservatism, but I believe in the separation of church and state and I believe that the government should support the collective good while not curtailing our individual freedoms (such as a woman’s right to choose).  In my lifetime I’d love to see the GOP go back to a moderate place where there is actually a choice between parties in the election, because for me the choice in the past few elections has never been clearer.

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