I was writing a paper in Mudd library on the afternoon of November 6th, 2012, when a frenzied Oberlin student bounded in and made an announcement.
"EXCUSE ME EVERYONE!!!" she's shouting, desperation in her voice, "SORRY TO INTERRUPT YOUR WORK, BUT WE JUST HAD A CALL FROM THE OBAMA HEADQUARTERS SAYING VOTER TURNOUT IN OHIO HAS BEEN EXTREMELY LOW TODAY. IT LOOKS LIKE LORAIN COUNTY WILL PROBABLY GO RED. IF YOU HAVEN'T VOTED YET, WE HAVE A VAN WAITING OUTSIDE TO TAKE YOU TO THE POLLS. WE NEED YOUR HELP!!! THANK YOU!"
My friend Deirdre and I stared at each other. "Shit," we both said. Fortunately we had both early-voted in Ohio to avoid the whole "Should I try to preserve my GPA and edit this paper that's due in an hour, or should I try to preserve the country by voting in one of the biggest swing states in America?" kind-of-dilemma. Still, this girl freaked me the heck out, and now I was stressed about the future state of America, on top of my stress involving my final paper on Robert Lowell's poem "For the Union Dead." Oy. Rough Tuesday.
Honestly, I had been thinking that Ohio would probably go red this election. I've lived in Oberlin for three years now, which is not a long time, but enough to notice abandoned businesses, foreclosed houses, empty croplands and a LOT of conservative political billboards and signs. There's not a whole lot of money floating around this state - or at least, not in Lorain County - and a lot of the economic issues of the state haven't gotten better, or have actually gotten worse.
An old barn along Lorain Road. Rural Ohio is beautiful but faces a lot of economic issues, especially around Lorain County.
A crazy abandoned mill, or factory, a couple miles outside of Oberlin.
Soybeans are one of the major crops and around Oberlin; agriculture contributes $93.8 billion to Ohio's economy.
That's what really scared me - the fact that Obama promised change, and yet, I hadn't noticed this midwestern state change much since I've been at school here. Again, I haven't been here that long, not to mention I live in an outlier college town that has money; but I've sensed that the quality of life here in Ohio has not dramatically increased since Obama took presidency. And although I don't blame Obama for that, I figured a lot of Ohioans would probably not be jumping out of their pants at the idea of re-electing him. WHEREAS, the people who really wanted to see a change WOULD be motivated to cast their vote for Romney, and take the couple hours out of their day to go to the polls.
Fast-forward five hours, and I'm watching the election returns (with Deirdre and co.) on a giant projector at my friends' house down the street. Everyone's nervous and yelling at ABC and Democracy Now!'s livestream sites, which are frustratingly boring and kept freezing up. I had a bad feeling about the swing states, especially Ohio. And then, rather suddenly and anti-climactically, Jon Stewart announced it: Barack Obama won the election, and Ohio swung blue.
For a minute I didn't believe it. I could not believe it. There were really people out there, other than liberal Oberlin students, that had enough motivation to go to the polls and cast their vote for Obama?? My hipster friends and I weren't alone in our desire to elect a Democrat?!? We were all shocked; some of us began shouting gleefully, others (myself included) began crying, though not quite as uncontrollably as in 2008, when I was seventeen and sobbed at the overwhelming notion of such a historical moment.
I had assumed this election would be the victim of the indifferent voter - someone who was vaguely unhappy with Obama's track record, but also distrusting of Romney's policies - who didn't have the motivation to get the polls and cast their vote (unlike a motivated angry conservative who felt VERY motivated to elect Romney). And yet, I was proven wrong: Ohio pulled through, and the people of this state humbled my cynical beliefs.
That's right: America re-elected this guy. Amazing.
So Obama had another four years as America's first African American president, we avoided the Rompacolypse that I had so intensely feared, I finished my paper on Robert Lowell and so had Deirdre, and pretty much every single Oberlin student was FREAKING OUT. No wonder what happens next:
1. Shouting and jumping (looking something like this)
1. Numerous bottles of wine
2. Running and skipping down North Professor Street in the freezing cold, all the while singing "WE ARE NEVER EVER EVER ELECTING ROMNEY AS PREZZIE" (inspired by Taylor Swift of course) (though I realize in retrospect, it doesn't really fit rhythm-wise) (oh well)
3. High-fiving approximately 400 people in Tappan Square who are all crying and screaming
4. Witnessing the most hilarious crowd-surfing attempts in Tappan Square's gazebo OF MY LIFE
5. Free PBR
6. More shouting and losing voices
7. Dancing to the percussion band (where did they come from??? how did they have their instruments? did they rehearse for this night in case Obama did win? someone please explain)
9. Drunk dials to my other drunken liberal friends and repeating over and over "THIS IS THE BEST DAY OF MY LIFE"
Etc. You get the picture.
This was my first presidential election I could vote in, AND I got to vote in Ohio - it was almost too exciting to handle. By the end of the night I collapsed, utterly exhausted from the stress and excitement and elation of the day. Before I fell asleep, though, I wrote this entry in my journal (replicated in its entirety):
THREE THINGS I WHOLEHEARTEDLY BELIEVE IN
1. If America can re-elect Obama, there is hope for mankind.
2. Oberlin is the best place in the world to celebrate a major political victory.
3. Twitter, Facebook, and the Internet as a whole will be a) the demise of television, and b) the demise of my life and ability to concentrate, they are so addicting.
A sunset on Lake Erie over the summer. Here's to you, Ohio!