Heidi Isern

writer. thinker. whiskey drinker.

Obama Election 2008 vs. 2012: Remembering the Past and Continuing the Journey

On Tuesday we elected Barack Obama for his second term of presidency.  Four years ago I watched him win his first in the heart of Fillmore’s jazz district.  I was in a back booth of Rassela’s dark jazz club, the only blond head of hair in the joint.  I sat close by my date, a man I had recently met, drinking whiskey trying to look cool.


Fueled by election frenzy, we had decided to go watch results unfold at an election party together.  I took my chances and assumed we would be both be (un-awkwardly) rooting for the same candidate.  Out of everyone in San Francisco I knew, I could count the number of Republicans on one hand.  It was far safer to assume someone had an orgy at Burning Man with people in bunny suits than vote to the right.


During the first hour our eyes were glued to a screen displaying the canvass of blue and red across the United States.  This was two years before my road trip, before I had a chance to traverse that canvass personally.  Before that I thought that red meant ‘evil,’ not ‘of more conservative opinions.’


After the map turned a few swing states into blue, the music picked up its beat and people started dancing. My date turned to me and said, “We may never remember each other but we will never forget this night.”


He was right.


I don’t remember him, but I will never forget the old women crying, the young girls shimmying, and the men clapping their hands as the brass picked up after our new African American President was announced. I will never forget dancing with a stranger, high on happiness for a new direction for the country I lived in.  And I will never forget that my parents voted Democrat for the first time in 30 years.  (“The right has just gone too blasted far to the right’ my father had said. “Plus who wants to vote for a Senior Citizen?”).


Now four years later, the celebration isn’t quite the same.  It isn’t the same historical moment, I wasn’t on a date, and I wasn’t amid cheers at a jubilant party claiming history in the making.  The president had faced challenges, and not everything had gone according to his first term promises.


Stuck at home with the flu I watched Obama’s speech alone from under a duvet.  Even though I was borderline delirious, his speech still inspired me.  He crossed all the necessary acceptance speech items off of his checklist by honoring his wife, children, running mate and opponent-but damnit he did it so eloquently I got tears in my eyes.  He also spoke of opportunity regardless of which country you came from, whom you loved, or what class you were born into.  He talked both about obligations to those less fortunate and hope for all of us for a stronger future.


And although economic issues and foreign policy are forefront on most people’s minds, I am relieved that we also have a President in power that will uphold our rights and give us something to aspire to.  I am driven to let go of my own selfish desires and become more compassionate to strengthen the community I live in.


Because of Obama, my parents are still democrat (this time my father said “Who wants to vote for a rich white fat man? Obama knows the middle class and he’s in shape”), and my mother sent me a happy email as soon as the results were in.  She had never done this in election history.  My Aunt living in India had sent us an inspiring video called “You Don’t Own Me” highlighting her sentiments on preserving women’s rights.  And my cousin chimed in with her own joy asking me how we should celebrate.  My brother, who sends a family email twice a year, finally wrote us.  This race had united my family. After traveling through the red states 2 years ago, I heard all different types of passionate ideologies that I respectfully “agree to disagree” with. However, I wonder if Republican families were as equally sentimental?  Would they have cried for joy had Romney gotten elected?


Now as the economy starts to turn around, I have even more hope than ever before.  Perhaps my celebration shouldn’t be for a party at a historical point in time, but rather an appreciation of the journey that we are continuing.

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