In the next 24 hours, Barack Obama will either have won another term in office or Mitt Romney will have been elected President of the United States of America. Just writing that has sent a hard shiver down my spine. Obama is currently mildly ahead in the polls but not enough to completely call it and this is the last day of campaigning. Sometime in the next couple of hours, election day will finally begin.
Firstly, can I just say thank fuck for that. This will be the end of one of the most exhausting times I can remember to be someone who lives by the news. The mother of little girl crying about the election is right – it’ll all be over soon. I want a nap. I really want a nice cup of tea. I want to turn on the news on Wednesday evening and have a good old laugh about George Osbourne’s ridiculous face during PMQ.
I want to have conversations in pubs with my liberal friends about modern day politics without a mounting sense of dread and urgency. I want to never, ever, ever again have to say the phrase “rape is rape, now shut up.” Frankly, I could happily go the next four years without needing to hear another person talk about Ohio. I will miss my housemate and me spending evenings editing the footage of Romney and Obama facing off during the second debate to play along to the classic '80s power ballad Total Eclipse of the Heart, but that’s about it.
Secondly, can I just take you back to a day like this, four years ago, when Obama was the widely projected winner of the 2008 election. His had been a campaign like no other, something that no one in my generation had ever seen. Messages of hope, campaign posters designed by street artists, an orator that made us actually want to listen to what he had to say.
There was a feverish anticipation that Obama getting elected would have some Wizard of Oz effect on the world – it would take us back to that little farm in Kansas, to a place where the wicked witch had never existed, where we would never hear the murderous groan of Lehman Brothers collapsing, or know the word Guantanamo. When he finally won and gave that enrapturing victory speech in the dead of the Chicago night, there was a suspended sense of the impossible having been accomplished - the first black President of the United States had been elected.
Let’s not underestimate how awful the eight years under Bush really were. I was a teenager for most of his presidency, and I remember the horror of piecing together the illegality of the war in Iraq, of constantly hearing Christian metaphors appropriated to justify military action, of the USAID programmes that would only promote abstinence-only sex education, of Abu Ghraib. As someone who went through the majority of my adolescence and young adulthood living in a world under Bush, I can attest that those years went a long way to destroy any optimism I had about the so-called “real world”.
When Obama was elected, there was a feeling that we could take a break somehow, stop worrying about wars and diseases for a minute. We wouldn’t have to think about Sarah Palin ever again. We could just rest our heads and close our eyes for just a second, just to forget about the last eight years...
And then BAM! Suddenly it’s four years later again and here we are again - agonising over polls and laughingly quoting along to the most memorable gaffes of this election cycle. Except this time, we’ve had the reality of an Obama presidency to contend with: one that didn’t close Guantanamo, one that introduced drones, one that didn’t reintroduce the Glass-Steagall act. But also one who did come out in favour of gay marriage, one who has cut private health insurers down to size, and one who got out of Iraq. We’ve also witnessed the arrival of the ever-terrifying Tea Party movement, and watched Romney’s rise through their ranks like a ghoulish Charlton Heston. When the hell did that all happen?
In the next 24 hours, there’s one thing I’m completely sure of - whether or not Obama won, the next four years are going to be the fight of our lives. If he did win then I don’t see us liberals resting on our laurels again - one term of Obama in power gave rise to the Tea Party movement and one of the most fundamentally socially conservative presidential candidates we’ve seen since the 1950’s. That sort of thing tends to shock the left into action, and even more so if that candidate actually wins.
If Mitt Romney is the next elected President of the United States tonight, I don’t believe for a minute that America will take that lying down. Women will fight to protect her right to choose, families will fight to protect their healthcare, small business owners will have to fight to protect their interests over those of big business. At the end of the day, Obama did do that - he put the fight back into a generation anaesthetised by wars and recessions and social inequality, and the spirit back into a global community exhausted by American bullheadedness. These kinds of things don’t get extinguished that easily.
But fuck it. He’s got to win. Just the thought of Mitt Romney’s face if he lost is just giving me butterflies. Please?
Image via Barack Obama's Facebook