Ponderings from a Procrastinating Prognosticator

Election Ponderings

Posted by samatwitch on November 10, 2008

I’m a Canadian and have voted in every election – civic, provincial or federal – since I turned 19.  I try to stay informed as to what the candidates’ policies and platforms are.  We just had a federal election in October to choose our Prime Minister and parliament.  The election was called, campaigning began, a debate was held among the five parties, voting began (I voted early this time) and it was all over in just over 30 days.  Voter turnout was the lowest ever  – 59.1%.  That’s been attributed to many things: Liberal dissatisfaction with their leader, general apathy on the part of the population, no burning issues to get behind on any one party, general voter fatigue.  I think it may have had a lot to do with that ‘other’ election – that of choosing a leader in the country south of us, an election process that was in turn long, drawn-out, up and down, bitter and hopeful, and never ever boring!

In good part because of the Internet, I became a US political junkie!  A great many of my on-line friends, some of whom I have even met in person, are American, and they are intelligent, well-read and politically aware.  In 2008, many of them were actively involved, some for the first time.  There are a couple of Republicans in the mix ;), but most of my friends are Democrats or became so over the course of the process.

On Flickr, the Whedonesque group called “The Library”, has a thread about voting for Obama.  It was started by Willowy, who is from Arizona – originally from Alaska – on January 31, 2008 and it grew ‘like Topsy’.  It’s now over 17 pages long, with over 1650 comments.  Many of the comments were links to articles, YouTube, blogs, etc.

The same thing happened on Twitter.  A lot of my friends on there also posted links, so that if I fell behind while I was at work, it could take me hours to catch up at night, because I wanted to read or watch everything that my friends felt was worthwhile.

Although I was impressed with Barack Obama, during the Primaries, I wavered between him and Hillary Clinton.  I had always liked and respected her and thought she’d make a good President, but either one was okay with me.  The primary process dragged on and on, and some of the things coming out of the Clinton campaign made me change my mind.  There was something about Barack Obama that inspired hope and confidence that this man might actually be able to change the direction in which America had been heading and reverse some of the damage already done.

Our Canadian election over and done with and civic elections not until mid-November, I settled down to watch what was happening to our nearest neighbour and it was exciting, nail-biting, rollercoaster-riding awesome, in the original sense of the word.

After eight years of a Bush-Cheney White House, the American people voted for change – not just for a change in political party – but for change in the greatest sense of the word: they voted for hope.  I sat in front in my living room on November 4th, swivelling on my chair between the TV and my computer screen.  I was watching CNN on TV and was switching from CNN to MSNBC to Flickr to Twitter on my computer, to get the latest numbers the fastest.  I can’t imagine what it must have been like for people on the East Coast.  I found it hard enough to wait until 8 pm Pacific time when, as soon as the California polls closed, CNN & MSNBC and everyone else from what I understand, called the election for Obama.  I couldn’t stop crying – and still can’t whenever I think of what actually happened that night.

My tears were of joy, of course, and of relief, but I think I was and still am overwhelmed by the enormity of what the American people did in voting in  Barack Obama as President.  It isn’t just that he’s African-American, although that is certainly a big part of it.  Although part of me that ‘knows’ things knew he would win, the practical side of me kept thinking that at the last moment the American people were going to decide they weren’t ready for a black president.  I am so glad that that part of me was wrong.

In the days leading up to election night, there were stories of people standing in line for hours to vote. There was a story of an elderly black woman who was dying but was determined to vote for Obama before she did so.  Her advance vote came, a family member took it to the hospital and helped her fill it out and sign it.  She died a few hours later.  The one downside to all of this was the death of Barack Obama’s grandmother.  I was so glad that he took time out to go to visit her one last time.  In a way, that convinced me that he was going to win, because I don’t think she would have let go and died if she had had any doubt.

I am old enough to remember the race riots in the States in the 60s.  I remember Kent State, the Chicago Seven (or Eight), George Wallace and Martin Luther King.  My mother bought the record of “I Have a Dream” which she played for my sister and me and which I still have today.  His assassination still affects me today, but Martin Luther King’s words continue to inspire people – not just in the US – and that is what makes me so emotional about Barack Obama.

He inspires people.  He inspired some of my friends to become actively involved in his campaign, he inspired – and continues to inspire – people with hope; hope for the future, for change – not only for how America behaves within its boundaries, but how it behaves with the rest of the world.

As I watched his acceptance speech, delivered by a man who looked as if he had just realised what he has to live up to, tears rolled down my face, as they ran down the faces of many of the thousands of people in the crowd, including Oprah Winfrey and Jesse Jackson, of black and white, of young and old, and I thought for the first time in a long time that maybe the world has a chance at surviving the human race after all.  The leader of the most powerful nation in the world has said he is willing to talk to leaders of other countries, even ones diametrically opposed to American interests, before he considers bombing them to pieces.  He cares about the environment and understands we may have to make major changes in the way we live in order to still have a world to live in.

He made it plain that it wasn’t going to be an easy process or a quick one, and people aren’t always going to like the decisions his government has to make, but Barack Obama seems to have a good grasp of the big picture and where he wants to steer America, and that is something that I haven’t seen in a long time.

These pictures have been making the rounds and here is a link to an article about them.  They cause more tears to flow because they sum up the hope I and others dare to feel once more.

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