Here we are, three days past the Presidential election, and I'm still elated in a way I never have been after any political race. I was young enough when G.W. Bush was elected the first time that I was still sheltered under the umbrella of my parents' conservative leanings and didn't have any convictions about who the president was or wasn't. By the Bush-Kerry election, my political beliefs had matured some, but I was still very much torn between the new liberal ideas I was realizing I aligned with more and more, and the conservative beliefs I had been raised with and until then had not questioned. In any case, I was one month too young to vote in that election, and got to watch America drop the proverbial ball from the stands. Obama's election in 2008 was the first Presidential election in which I was allowed to vote, a fact I'm rather proud of and will proclaim loudly for the rest of my life. I was ecstatic when he won--Bush would be out in January, and more of his ilk would not be taking his place in Washington. I think all Democrats were beside themselves with glee that day.
The 2012 election, while accompanied by that same thrill, feels better, deeper somehow. I think it's because the message of change that won it for Obama in 2008 has finally begun to come to fruition. In 2010 Tea Partiers and the GOP played off of America's desire for instant gratification on Obama's campaign promises and overall Democrat indifference to push them into a position of power, a position to stall or thwart Democratic efforts in Congress and wage an all-out war on unions, women's and LGBT's rights, and the underprivileged. On November 6, 2012, thanks largely to the efforts of OFA and GOTV, I saw my fellow Americans push back. Ten of the pollution deregulation "Dirty Dozen" were voted out of office. Tea Partiers lost Congressional seats left and right to Democrats, most of them women. There are still not enough women in Congress, but thanks to this election there will be more than ever before, and that's a huge start.
Continued on down the line...
The strides I'm most proud of, however, came in the arena of human rights. We elected our first EVER openly gay senator. Marriage rights were upheld in three states, and attempts to further restrict them were shut down in another. It's easy for many in my generation to trivialize these victories because we were raised in a climate in which "gay" was gradually becoming more accepted. We were not around for or were too young to understand the days when coming out often meant complete ostracization among one's peers or outright physical attacks. The shift in the national scene toward gay rights has been decades in the making, and was a battle begun by a courageous few who were willing to stand up in the face of violence and hate when no one else would. We all owe them more than I can ever express.
Their bravery has forged the way for a different kind of heroism in Americans everywhere. I remember watching an openly bisexual classmate being ridiculed for who he was when I was in the tenth grade. I didn’t participate, but, afraid of what some of my Christian friends would think, I didn’t say anything either. It may be easy to excuse away with notions of being young or not knowing any better yet, but that day still haunts my conscious because I was too afraid of what people thought to stand up against something I knew in my gut was wrong. I think lots of people experienced moments like that in the early 2000's concerning social issues: Feeling unsure what they believed, staying out of the debate instead of speaking up because of what friends and family might think. A scant decade later, thousands have overcome that fear. Before the NC Amendment One vote and in the lead-up to the Presidential election, I saw friends who used to be anti-gay or indifferent speaking out for LGBT rights on Facebook, many to the heavy criticism of their family and friends. A few friends who were staunch Republicans when I knew them in college worked for OFA getting out the vote this year because they could no longer stomach the GOP stances on tax cuts for the wealthy and women's rights. I watched my mother, raised Republican and in the past preferring not to get involved in the political arena, talking to her friends and coworkers about equal marriage rights and climate change research, urging them to get out and vote for Obama.
Americans across the country spoke out for change this election. We stood up for women's rights over their own bodies. We stood up for the right of people to marry whomever they so choose regardless of sexual orientation. We stood up against the purchase of our government by the 1%. We stood up for the idea that no one in America makes it alone, and we all owe our fair share back to each other to keep things running. We stood up against polluting industries and proclaimed that our world IS changing, and we need better energy sources to face that change head-on. And the best part of this election for me was, once we all stood up at once, we looked around and realized that we are not the minority anymore. Slowly but surely in this country, reason is overtaking religious agenda. Facts are outrunning stale talking points and misinformation. Love is smothering hate. For the first time in my life, I can listen to some of my fundamentalist conservative family members recite their tired FoxNews memes without a feeling of dread settling in my stomach. While there are still miles and miles left to run, this election has convinced me that they are not the majority of Americans anymore. The tide has shifted, and their old white strongholds are dying off. Americans are finally becoming the ones we've been waiting for. We are going to be the change that we seek.