To be forthright, I was not an Obama, nor a McCain supporter. I'm what you call that voter who doesn't matter; an independent that votes for the candidate that most closely aligns with his political views, regardless of their odds of winning.
The moment Obama was declared our 44th president, I felt little emotion. Not sad, not happy, not even relieved that the election was finally over. Then, I listened to McCain give a graceful concession speech, and Obama a poetic acceptance. Honestly, I internalized very few of the words from either candidate, having heard their cases for 21 months now.
Then, slowly, somehow, something made me happy. I couldn't figure out what it was. Did I really want Obama to win? Did I really want McCain to lose? Was I just happy for my family, who were cheering for the change?
For the duration of this election, I was quite certain that America needed a lot more than hope. I often kidded that 'hope for change' was the greatest and simplest platform in a country that has strayed far from its roots, calling it a ticket to the White House. But, I also kidded that the ticket would expire in four years. I thought America needed to re-evaluate not just the war, but our foreign policy; not just the economy, but our monetary policy; not just the candidates, but the philosophies they support.
I still believe most of that, but I was wrong about hope. I saw the victory of 'hope and change' activate the apathetic. Put tears in the eyes of old civil rights leaders. I saw headlines from foreign countries celebrating and families together in the streets hugging one another. We've all heard the headlines of record turnouts, the increase in new voters, and we have witnessed the power of the everyday grassroots campaigner. These are all good things, no matter who won the election.
In turn, I got a few things from the election last night. I got some hope that the politics of positivism has won a battle against the politics of fear. I got a little hope that we won't have to debate the superficial issues of color and race in our future elections. I got a lot of hope that We The People proved our collective ability to take on the establishment, whether or not we voted for the winner.
Now, with the election in our rearview mirror, I don't know if any of my hopes will result in real change. But, I must admit it does feel good just to hope that some good changes may be ahead of us. And maybe, the simple happiness of hope, in and of itself, is a lot more important and can do a lot more good than I thought.