I didn’t sleep well the night before Election Day 2012—something about the very early morning alarm, chronic lack of sleep after a long campaign, and a feeling in my stomach that reminded me of Christmas. It wasn’t as much the “yipee Santa!” stomach I remember from my childhood—more like your first holidays with a new significant other, when you experience overwhelming anxiety because you can’t tell if your gift for them will be incredibly underwhelming or embarrassingly excessive compared to their gift for you.
Election Day 2012 delivered the perfect present. In fact, it hit the beautiful note of ushering in a second term for President Obama, punching Romney and his crooked party in the gut with the “unexpected” victory for Democrats, and signaling a new era in our country’s slow slog toward honest to goodness liberty and justice for all. I’ve called this election cycle groundbreaking and even inspirational—above all because it restored my faith in the political process.
And since November, I’ve wondered (and of course by extension, assume that all of America has been wondering along with me), if I even knew I’d lost my faith. I’ve heard that depression sometimes sneaks up on you—maybe it’s the same with political melancholy?
After eight years of watching H.W. flounder and both Gore and Kerry’s candidacies wither before our eyes, a President Obama was almost too good to be true. So, progressives wasted no time in making it so. My personal contribution was pointing out all of the ways Hillary would’ve made better decisions for at least the first three years of Obama’s residency in the Oval Office. But I digress.
Obama wasn’t a perfect president during his first term, but Americans have really gotten the political crud kicked out of them. We lived through a bailout, a stimulus, the health reform sausage making, then a SCOTUS decision, the almost government shutdown, the fiscal cliff (multiple times, no less), unspeakable gun violence, a tea party, not to mention the tsunami, hurricanes, and dismal jobs numbers. And for those allergic to 24-hour news, there was an endless stream of satirical clips about oversexed politicians and just about everyone throwing up their hands in disgust on Facebook and Twitter. Back in early November 2012, my “kick the bums out” devil was definitely shouting louder than my “this democracy thing does work” angel on my shoulders.
But then Obama won. And four states voted pro-equality on ballot initiatives on same-sex marriage. Progressive candidates for Senate who shouldn’t have necessarily won their elections did and are now Senators. And the House of Representatives, despite being in the hands of smarmy conservative men for another two years, is more diverse than ever before. Honestly, I can’t say it better than Rachel.
The most important thing I’ve taken away from the 2012 election cycle is a deeper appreciation for our democracy (little d) and political process—and a long overdue diagnosis of my political depression. Over the years, I’d lost faith in the Average American, in Congress, and in the ability of a small group of group of thoughtful, committed, citizens to change the world. It was less a Hope and Change hangover than a serious condition of cynicism and doubt. I’m grateful that Election Day 2012 helped to restore my faith in my neighbors, my representatives, and my commitment to progressive causes. And I’m grateful to know that I still have work to do to see that faith fully restored.
The Pleasant Progressive