America Decides: Reaction


White House- Seansie- Flickr

Provided the Mayans haven’t got it right and the world isn’t due an untimely end, probably the biggest news story of 2012 will be the year’s US Presidential elections, and more specifically – Barack Obama’s sensational re-election to office. As the evening of 6th November saw votes roll in from an estimated 130 million Americans, the world waited with bated breath to see which states would swing which way, political commentators grasping at straws to predict the evening’s outcome. Ultimately, however, it was the incumbent Obama who prevailed – in what transpired to be a monumental night for Democrats, women in politics and marriage equality, and a calamitous night for both the GOP and all those millionaires and corporations who’d been quietly pinning their hopes on the election of a candidate who’d tend exclusively to their interests.

Yet the President’s Victory speech was a far cry from that of four years ago – shot through with a certain weariness that reverberated in contrast with the upbeat tone of his previous post-election address to the nation. Faced with an electorate many of whom claimed to have ‘lost hope’, he sought to clarify the importance of that very hope which brought him to office four years ago:

“I ask you to sustain hope. I’m not talking about blind optimism, the kind of hope that just ignores the enormity of the tasks ahead or the roadblocks that stand in our path. I’m not talking about the wishful idealism that allows us to just sit on the sidelines or shirk from a fight.

I have always believed that hope is that stubborn thing inside us that insists, despite all the evidence to the contrary, that something better awaits us so long as we have the courage to keep reaching, to keep working, to keep fighting.”

Much remains to be done to convince the American public that these words ring can true, as the nation suffers through the collective hangover from 2008’s jubilation. The United States may still be largely in favour of Barack Obama, but by no means is he idolised in the same way as he was when he strode into the Oval Office as the country’s first African-American President.

While the hard work is only just beginning, then, some breakthroughs were taking even as Obama was giving his victory speech. Much press attention was focused on the Presidential race, but as voters took to their polling stations to re-elect Obama, they were also deciding on some vital propositions. Washington and Colorado legalised marijuana for recreational use. Maine, Maryland and Washington voted in favour of equal marriage. Hawaii elected Mazie Hirono as the first ever Asian American to take a place in the senate, while Wisconsin’s Tammy Baldwin became the first ever openly gay senator. In total, 20 women will now serve in the US Senate- an all-time record.

While Obama’s victory mightn’t have the same significance of his earlier triumphs, then; while both the President and his team may face a decidedly uphill struggle to fully regain the trust of their public, he’s hit the ground running. With any luck, the successes of election night provide only a glimpse of what’s to come in the next four years.