At the election-watching party at Donovan’s Pub, there was immense cheering, clapping and embracing at 11 p.m. when Barack Obama was projected as the winner. There was also a good amount of people still seated, looking uncomfortable.
When I got back to my room and inevitably turned to Facebook, there was a constant stream of updated statuses. I suddenly knew instantaneously whether many of my Facebook friends were Democrats or Republicans. Never had a question involved less effort in finding the answer. Generally, Democrats were elated and Republicans couldn’t resist ignoring the rule that if you don’t have anything nice to say, you shouldn’t say anything at all. But, honestly, by Election Day I had already considered this election a success for several days. I’ve thought this ever since I realized that the highest voter turnout rate ever was predicted for this election.
Voter turnout has declined significantly over the course of this century. Some people are apathetic; some people say their votes wouldn’t count anyways. Aside from the fact that we should all want to involve ourselves in the political process, it is important to vote because the results don’t truly reflect the general opinion of Americans if large numbers and groups of people are not casting their ballots. If we, as the people, as the democracy, vote for what we believe in, then we are at least trying to improve what we see as being wrong. If we don’t vote, don’t do anything, because we see the system as being corrupt, we are not doing anything to change that system.
Because I am writing this article in the earliest hours of the morning after Obama’s predicted win, my search for the actual voter turnout rate for the 2008 election failed. However, a 65 percent turnout rate has been predicted, which would be the highest since 1908. Voter registration has increased by more than seven percent, and over 27 million Americans voted prior to Election Day. If this is not a win, I don’t know what is.
Voter turnout was the earliest (predicted) victory, but it is certainly not the only one. Virginia voted Democrat, something that hasn’t happened since 1964. I think it is vastly important that the election map was not simply red outlined in blue. Candidates should not be able to assume that Republicans will always win the south and Democrats will always win the northeast. A Democratic vote from a typically “red state” suggests that people are voting based on the issues, and not based on party lines, which is the way it should be. You should never know what party you will be casting your ballot for before you know which candidates are running.
The biggest win of this election is that the first African American president has been elected to the White House. Regardless of which candidate you voted for, this is a historical moment in America. This country has never really been “the land of the free,” and it still isn’t. We have a long way to go before we can honestly say that there is equality between whites and blacks, or that racism does not exist. I was truly afraid, as this election approached, that it would not matter whether Obama was the right person to be President. I had serious doubts that the citizens of the United States would elect an African American to office. And the results of this election have restored some of my faith in America. If Barack Obama can succeed in being elected President of the United States, then maybe change really can happen.
From the moment this election was called, I have seen a decided division between the “winners” and the “losers.” The Democrats are gloating, and the Republicans are sulking. And those reactions are only natural. But when you look beyond which party won, I think it’s clear that we all have reason to celebrate.