More than anything, the historic 2008 elections and Barack Obama’s election day victory were a testament to the power and the promise of democracy in the United States of America.Â In the face of long lines, dirty politics, threatened voter suppression, and the legacy of racism, the will of the American people ruled the day and made history.
And what was the deciding factor?Â Young people and African Americans – two groups that historically don’t exercise the right – discovered politics.
Young folks and black folks have always complained that voting doesn’t change America, and to a degree that’s correct.Â Voting by itself has never changed anything.
Barack Obama didn’t win just because millions of people stood in those lines on election day.Â This election was won by the thousands of people who participated in the political process by organizing, making phone calls, knocking on doors, bootlegging t-shirts, donating money, forwarding YouTube videos, throwing parties and talking amongst themselves about the issues.
This election cycle was more exciting than most partially because of our circumstances.Â The policies of George W. Bush and his administration have nearly bankrupted the nation and mired us in two wars.Â It was also more exciting because of who was running.Â Hilary Clinton made a strong run as the first serious woman candidate, narrowly losing to the first serious African American contender and eventual winner.
But this election was exciting because we got involved.Â We talked about it, we worked on the campaigns, we supported our chosen candidates.Â Young people and African Americans won this election for Barack Obama because we participated in more than just the vote, and then when it came down to it, we also voted in record numbers.
It can’t stop here.Â The next four years will be among the most challenging that the nation has faced.Â We can’t sit around waiting on Barack Obama to change this country for us.Â As Gandhi told us, we must “be the change we wish to see in the world.”
Here are some scenes from my coverage of election day in Michigan:
Some voters at Patchin Elementary School in Westland, Michigan had a very short wait at the polls, while others stood in line for two hours or more. Nadir examines the disparities and talks to some of the frustrated voters who nonetheless, were prepared to wait it out.
Vote Now! No Waiting at U of M
Compared to other precincts across the state, the waits at University of Michigan in Ann Arbor were very short. Nadir has the 411…
In Detroit, Michigan voters got out early to avoid long lines on election day. African Americans proved the difference for Barack Obama as he received 95% of the Black vote nationwide. This report from two Detroit precincts shows short lines at the end of the day after the festive chaos of the morning.
The young people who worked with Michigan Democratic Future and the Teamsters to get out the vote in the 2008 elections were ecstatic when it was announced that Barack Obama would become the 44th president of the United States.
Detroit Mayor Ken Cockrel, Jr. stopped by the Michigan Democratic Future’s Obama Victory Celebration in Detroit on election night. MTV’s Street Team ’08 Michigan Correspondent, Nadir speaks with the mayor.
Nadir: I think that the data are very clear that the black and youth vote did NOT make a difference in this election. Obama’s landslide was so great that he would have won even with normal black and youth voting patterns. The black and youth vote were only up slightly over 2004, and overall voting did not reach record levels. In 2004 blacks composed 11% of voters, a figure that edged up only to 13% this time around. Another way of looking at this: in 2004 blacks were slightly under represented and this time slightly over represented (assuming they comprise 12% of the US population).
The difference of this election — the source the landlside — was an overwhelming preference among many various groups of voters for the democratic candidate. As with Obama’s previous electoral victories, his victory margin comes from the preference that white voters have for him over his white opponent. The only time Obama has had close calls or defeats is battling black candidates in black districts.
This election has proven yet again that the US is the most racially and gender-tolerant civilization in history, both absolutely, and at any given time.
MSNBC disagrees with you, Paul.
“MSNBCâ€™s Web site reported this morning that it was the black vote, not the youth vote, that pushed Obama to victory. AnaMaria Arumi, who directs the exit poll desk for NBC, MSNBC and Telemundo, said:
In the make-believe world where no African-Americans voted, while Obama still would have won most of the states that he won, McCain would have been able to take the hotly contested states of Florida, Indiana, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia. The 107 electoral votes from those states would have been enough to shift the map in McCainâ€™s favor.”
However, in my estimation, it wasn’t just the votes of Blacks and young people that gave Obama the victory. It was the politicization of those two groups which are usually not very politically active that made the difference before election day. It was the door knocking, email forwarding, phone calling and general increase in political activity among Blacks and young people that won it for him.
Not saying that the white folks who are usually involved in Democratic politics didn’t have a hand in the victory as well, but by exciting Blacks and young people, the Dems got an added boost. In my estimation, that is the difference between 2000, 2004 and 2008.