I live in a blue state. Ever since we opted for George McGovern over Richard Nixon in the 1972 presidential race, we have frequently been considered the bluest state in the bunch. (I was sorry to hear of George McGovern’s death last month. Will we ever have another presidential candidate call for a 37% reduction in defense spending over three years?) In spite of the fact that Mitt Romney calls Massachusetts “home,” it certainly came as no surprise that Barack Obama was the victor here.
Last night I gathered with friends before a communal bowl of popcorn and a TV. We held our breath as the votes from rural states rolled in (with the majority favoring Romney) only to cheer as the tallies from urban areas (with high turnouts from young people, women and communities of color) favored Obama. Hand-slapping and hugging broke out as Elizabeth Warren made her victory speech, also claiming the distinction of becoming the first woman senator to represent our state. As I headed off to bed, questions were still being raised about the count in Ohio, and Florida was too close to call, but there was no doubt that Obama had secured his second term.
My two teenage girls are usually slow to wake up on school mornings. Simply announcing the election results– both Barack Obama and Elizabeth Warren– was enough to get them up and cheering today. I turned on the radio while I made their breakfast and when they arrived to the table they were amazed to see their mother with tears in her eyes. I told them about Tammy Baldwin’s historic victory in Wisconsin, the first openly gay senator in U.S. history. I told them that Claire McCaskill had defeated Todd Akin (who had angered both men and women with his comments about “legitimate rape”), and for first time, two states– Maine and Maryland– had supported same-sex marriage by a popular vote.
After the girls left for school, I gathered with my women friends and neighbors. We talked about the rise of women in government, state ballot questions, the uncertain outcome in Florida, and the many challenges still ahead. Perhaps things haven’t changed that much in Massachusetts– with a Kennedy back in the House and a Democrat back in the Senate, we are still blue– but one of my friends told a story of how her family in Florida struggled to surmount the differences that make many of us feel as if this country has been torn in two.
My friend (I’ll call her “D”) was born in the province of Pinar del Río in Cuba and came to this country as a child. Many of her Cuban relatives now live in Miami. One of D’s relatives is gay, a fact that has been accepted by others but never openly discussed. Prior to the election, he told his extended Cuban-American family that a vote for Romney was a vote against him. It was time for him to speak up about his sexual orientation; he had been mute for too long. Arguments followed and a cousin, an older Cuban-American woman, was brought to tears. D (up in Massachusetts) was asked to intervene by phone. When D called, the cousin informed her that the only way to resolve the family crisis was to “leave it up to God.”
“I wrote two names on slips of paper– Mitt Romney and Barack Obama– and put them inside a box,” she told D. “And then I prayed. ‘Please God, tell me who to vote for.’ I shook the box and reached inside. And then I did the right thing. I voted for Obama.”
This morning, the electoral map in Florida displayed a nearly even split between Obama and Romney. Right now, I’m happy to be blue but there is still a lot of red out there. So I can’t help but wonder if we should all be praying for a little more purple– at least until the next presidential race.