History

I’m not American and I never will be, and that’s okay because being Canadian has treated me well. But I find the American electoral process absolutely fascinating–often tiresome, yes, but always fascinating.

I suspect that’s because I have been spoiled. Though I was technically alive for the second of Ronald Reagan’s term and for the George H. W. Bush presidency, I have no recollection of either. The first American president I remember is Bill Clinton and, well, I remember him more from what unfolded underneath the podium than anything he might have said as he stood before it. 

George W. Bush followed the Clintoris episode. And before Bush became the gift that kept on giving, there was the debacle that was the 2000 election. I was 14 years old at the time, and that’s about the age when you first realize the greater forces of the powers that be of the world. I don’t remember much about the election, just that something happened in Florida and that you could somehow win the popular vote in the United States but not win the election.

Of course, losing the popular vote while winning the election is precisely what Barack Obama threatened to do for a little while on Election Day 2012–at least that’s what analysts kept bringing up. Never mind that he didn’t and that he trailed only because the votes from the West Coast hadn’t reported at the time. But in the end, all is right and Obama has won both the popular vote (50.5 to 48 per cent) and the electoral vote (303 to 206, with still 29 to report).

Though Obama had preached a single message throughout his campaign–FORWARD–it’s backward that I found myself looking at as his reelection became official. A lot has changed for me in four years, but really things were the same on Nov. 6, 2012, as they were on Nov. 4, 2008. I was there four years ago for the CHANGE we can believe in, and I can say that I witnessed history yet again. Once again this year, I was home, extremely tired but loving it. (And for the record, Twitter truly adds to the experience.)

I started watching the coverage a little bit before midnight, right when my sister messaged me to tell me that Obama’s victory was anticipated. If it remained unofficial, it was because the Mitt Romney camp didn’t want to concede–until he did. That happened close to 1 a.m., and soon after that, Romney made his concession speech. As his campaign was, the speech was pretty good but ultimately forgettable.

And yet, it was a lovely speech if only because that meant Barack Obama would be speaking shortly afterward. Though that didn’t happen for another 30 minutes or so, the wait was well worth it. Much like it did four years ago, his speechmoved me to tears, or just about. Obama is an incredible speaker, and his speech on Tuesday night was an incredible one.

Yet, this wasn’t obvious right away. At first, Obama’s speech only seemed like it would be a great one–which, admittedly, is still better than most can manage. But it turned when he first mentioned the role of citizens. Obama always brings it strong and he closes even stronger, and that’s what turned this speech into a classic one.

But of course, Obama’s speech was strictly that–a speech. That’s not a bad thing, however, if you see the speech for what it is. It’s just a speech, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Whether Obama governs like he gives a speech isn’t something that will be determined as he is speaking. And whether you like that he gives a speech or not doesn’t change the fact that he will. So listen to the speech. Dare to dream, dare to be uplifted. Dare to be inspired. Or don’t.

Should Canadians invest as much time following their own political scene as they do the American one? It’s a fair criticism, but let’s not criticize strictly to criticize. Canada isn’t the leader and the global superpower that the United States is, and has never pretended to be. That  the entire world tunes in for the American presidential election is everything that the United States is about—America wants every pair of eyes to be on the country as it elects its new president. For good or bad, that’s what makes America, America. Canada, meanwhile, is only too happy to follow along and to look at, and up to, America—and so, it does just that in most regards.

Yet still, let’s talk about our dear Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Should Canadians pay more mind to their own elections? Almost certainly. But if they don’t, it’s as much an indictment on them as it is on the Canadian politicians themselves. The Canadians should absolutely pay attention to Election Night in America because in many ways, whoever wins the election will make daily decisions that have far-reaching consequences. They should because in many ways,whoever wins will dominate the global stage for the next four years in a way that nobody else will.

On Election Night 2012, the Americans reelected Barack Obama. They named him the person most likely to guide them to whatever excellence they think they need or deserve in the next four years. But that’s not what Election Night was about, no.

The night of Nov. 6, 2012, wasn’t about the next four years. Election Night 2012 wasn’t about the bigger picture. It wasn’t about the upcoming difficult decisions. Election Night 2012 was about the four years that were. Election Night 2012 was about showing that the four previous years hadn’t gone to waste. Election Night was about the people who had made the night possible, the voters and the supporters. Election Night 2012 was about one thing. It was about one night. It was about one speech. It was about one man.