Kerry/Bush was the first presidential election during which I was old enough to vote. The California gubernatorial recall had happened a few months before my 18th birthday in late 2007 and not being able to participate in the election that resulted in the governator (no, I would not have voted for him) was a sad moment for me, but knowing that I would turn 18 in a presidential election year made up for it. I registered green and knowing my home state's massive number of electoral votes were all going democrat, and honestly believing the democratic party to be too conservative to reflect my values, I happily (absentee) voted for Ralph Nader. It's a lovely luxury to have only lived in states where I know I can honestly vote for whomever I want instead of having to vote strategically.
I spent my fall semester in India that year. I read the transcript of the first presidential debate in a small internet cafe in McLeod Ganj, home of the Tibetan government in exile. I did the same for the following debates. On election night, my group and I were isolated working improving the Summer home for an orphanage with which we had been volunteering. We had a tiny radio and we tried our damnedest to find a station in English reporting on the election with no luck. Somebody came back from town and told us the next day. I didn't want to believe. I'm not sure I really did until I got back to an internet cafe and could read the news myself.
The idea that had been offered at the Democratic National Convention earlier that year that "There is not a liberal america and a conservative america, there is the United States of America" seemed nice but awfully hard to believe.
And on my 19th birthday, George W. Bush started his second presidential term.
2003 rolled around and boy was it exciting. In the same year, we had both an African American man and a woman in the primary as serious contenders. I had spent years thinking that I was an anachronism, that I was made for when the times they were a changin. That the way my family had raised me to believe in the power of protests, writing your representatives and passionately participating in democracy was pointless because so much of my generation was too cool to care. But then there was this man, this great Progressive hope that other people my age were getting excited about and I felt like maybe things were going to change.
I still wasn't a registered Democrat, I was registered independent. In California, independents can vote in the primary of their choosing. I still believed the democratic party to be overall too conservative for me but I was excited to vote for Barack Obama.
Election night, Lara and I listened to the coverage on NPR. A bottle of champagne chilling in the fridge waiting to be opened to celebrate the election and hopefully the defeat of prop 8. The presidential election was called early in the evening but we waited hours for the news on prop 8, eventually going to bed because it was too close to call that night.
In 24 hours we had elected our first African American president and California had amended its constitution to define marriage as being between a man and a woman. Sometimes in the world of you win some, you lose some, you really win and you really really lose.
I wrote my first real personal post on this blog January 19th, 2009, the day before my 23rd birthday and Barack Obama's presidential inauguration. I briefly mentioned the jubilation in Berkeley in a post a few days later.
It's strange to think how much my life has changed in the course of a presidency. Or that I've been writing that long.
At times Obama has gone from being the great Progressive hope to being the great Progressive disappointment. I'm not going to pretend to that my politics have mellowed enough to believe any differently. But I've kept faith that if he had a second term his more liberal ideals would come out. That maybe we could get real single payer health care. That we could legalize gay marriage nationally.
I'm a registered Democrat these days, mostly because when I reregistered I knew nothing about New York's parties or primary laws. I don't know how long it will last. I know that the inclusion of gay marriage in the Democratic platform makes me feel better about it. I also know that I voted for both Obama and Gillibrand as the "Working Families" candidate (see, I'm finally letting go of California's politics and learning about New York).
As much as 2008 felt like things were shifting, its got nothing on 2012. More states chose to legalize gay marriage. More states legalized marijuana (which is honestly something I care very little about but I still think points to a more progressive future). Thank goodness, Ted Kennedy's seat is once again held by a democrat and Massachusetts's first female senator. New Hampshire is ALL ABOUT the ladies. We can now all breath a giant sigh of relief that Akin and his disgusting views on rape were defeated.
I know we have a long way to go towards justice and equality in this country but when I look at the things that have changed in the last four years, when I look at the things that have changed in my lifetime already, that I used to think wouldn't have actually happened by now, I do genuinely feel hope again for the next four.
Don't let me down, Mr. President.