Marijuana. In "new" America, voters in Colorado and Washington supported making pot legal for recreational use. "These two states just gave the green light to an entirely new industry including but not limited to the large scale production, distribution and sale of marijuana. Just like in Amsterdam, only more comprehensive," writes the Wire's Adam Clark Estes. Via Reuters, "The voters have spoken and we have to respect their will,' Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper, a Democrat who opposed the measure, said in a statement. 'This will be a complicated process, but we intend to follow through.'" Federal law, of course, still says marijuana is an illegal drug, so things may get complicated, but whether you believe in the legalization of pot or not, you have to agree that the evidenced power of voters has been pretty exciting this election year.
Not everyone agrees with these measures, and we'll surely see at least some of these things disputed and criticized as we go forward. After all, as soon as Obama began to be projected as the winner, there were commentators ready to say that we have a nation divided, that governance would be a problem, that we are an America of reds and blues, with not a lot of bridges in between. And later, from The Times, "Obama, 51, faces governing in a deeply divided country and a partisan-rich capital, where Republicans retained their majority in the House and Democrats kept their control of the Senate." There are good, intelligent people in each and every state, regardless of which candidate those states gave their electoral votes to, but the look of new America is divided, sometimes angry, with polarizing opinions. That's worrisome and a definite challenge; we have to find ways to communicate and stay together as a country. That's going to take work.
But still, as a whole, it feels pretty great to luxuriate for a moment knowing that an apparent fulcrum has been reached with gay marriage, so much so that the people are beginning to vote to pass it state by state. Or that we've reached a point with sexism at which we're simply not going to take it anymore, not on a national political level, and not on an individualized or localized level, either. The "rape apologists," after all, lost. There are more women being, slowly but surely, elected. There is moving forward to go from that, but that doesn't mean we haven't already moved forward. We're acknowledging climate change. The ways in which we talk about these things has also forever changed.
It's easy to feel cynical in the 24-hour news cycle, or to wonder how, actually, things will be different—was last night just a show after which we all return to "normal" or the status quo again? But even if you've been disappointed with Barack Obama over the past four years, even if you didn't or thought twice about voting for him yesterday, there's hope in knowing that our nation is changing. As for that "different direction" that Romney hoped to lead us in? There's hope in knowing that before we got the results of this election, that new direction was already in the works—and that momentum is a hard thing to stop, particularly when much of it appears to be coming from the people, not the politicians. As Isolde Rafferty wrote last night for NBC News, "The Year of the Woman, 1992, was declared a triumph when the number of women in the Senate increased to six." We're not all there yet with equality, but 19 is clearly a step in the right direction—we, not the president, put those women in office.
My favorite post-election look at America, I think, is this one. One woman was so excited at Obama's victory party, I imagine, that she apparently left her shoes behind:
We hope she gets her shoes back. But maybe she's already moving on.
Image via Kevin Lamarque / Reuters.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.