In 2008 we witnessed history. When President Obama took to the stage to give his acceptance speech and the television camera’s panned out—we saw a new America. We bore witness to an America many had only dreamed of, one where the diversity of our great nation was represented. The Obama campaign had accomplished a once unthinkable feat and turned out record numbers of diverse voters—young, old, black, brown, gay and straight alike.
He lifted the cynics with his hopefulness and his vision for a better America, which included the participation of everyone, not just the privileged few.
Many balked at his historic win claiming that “people will only vote for history once”. Yet, the Obama campaign machine proved them wrong. Sure, there are data reports that highlight drop in 2012 voter turnout in comparison to 2008, but we also witnessed something we hadn’t experienced before which were insanely long voting lines, ‘Superstorm Sandy’ and record early voting numbers. Before polls opened on Election Day, more than 32 million people had voted, either by mail or in person, in 34 states and the District of Columbia. In a number of states, including Iowa, Maryland and Montana, early voting appeared to far exceed totals from 2008.
The question is has the Obama Era ushered in a new level of participation that can be sustained once he leaves office or will our newly found desire to be heard (and counted) leave with him?
The Obama campaign was able to avoid a major Democratic problem—pandering to certain demographics when you need them, and then placing their issues back on the shelf once the ballots have been cast. The beauty of President Obama’s 2nd term victory is that it proved that we may not believe in party or politics for that matter but we do believe in this man and his mission. The problem with this scenario however is that our next swath of presidential candidates may not be as talented or inclusive (crosses fingers for Hillary 2016).
With America seemingly more polarized than ever will our political participation stay at record high levels or will it dissipate under the drone of congressional inaction and partisan attacks? I guess we will just have to wait and see.
Tune into Politini this Thursday (and every Thursday from 8-9pm EST) to continue the political participation conversation and much, much, more!