The implications of a historic election

Barack Obama is young, charismatic, and hopeful about the future — just the sort of figure Americans were waiting to get behind, which is probably why so many did. And, yes, Obama won the presidential election — but he didn’t do it alone. Obama’s campaign represents one of the best administrative and grassroots efforts for a presidential race of all time.

Ordinary people, many of whom had never participated in a campaign effort, logged hours registering voters, making phone calls, knocking on doors, and driving people to the polls. Others made donations, which provided funds for the Obama campaign to support every person and community that wanted to display Obama stickers on their jackets and yard signs in their front yards, or hold a fund- or awareness-raising event. Some of the best organization was done right here on campus, where Carnegie Mellon Students for Barack Obama campaigned nearly every day for almost a year, not just for Obama but also to get their peers to become registered voters and then actually go out and vote on Election Day — regardless of their party affiliations.

Their efforts, and the efforts of thousands of other young voters (classified as 18–29 year olds) across the country, came to fruition when Obama was declared president around 11 p.m. Tuesday night. Exit polls indicated that it was the youth voter turnout, at about 54 percent, the highest such showing since 1972, that put Obama over the top and made the difference in swing states like Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Ohio. What’s more, young people preferred Obama nearly 2:1, the highest-ever proportion by this age group for a single candidate.

Regardless of which party won or lost, young voters from all parties were responsible for the number of voters who came out on Election Day, composing 18 percent of all voters nationwide. Obama supporters, especially the members of Carnegie Mellon Students for Barack Obama, should be proud that their efforts and votes proved victorious. Young voters, whether they are Democrats, Republicans, or Independents, should be proud that their efforts contributed to what became the most powerful voter age group in this election.

For better or worse, this same election created an enduring star in Sarah Palin. Even amid accusations from McCain aides made after last Tuesday’s election that she didn’t know that Africa was a continent or which countries participated in NAFTA, Palin still leaves the campaign trail as a national celebrity. In an odd twist of events and a loophole in the Senate electoral policy, it’s conceivable that if Senator Ted Stevens, now convicted of fraud, gets expelled from the Senate, Palin, as Alaska’s governor, could appoint herself to replace him. She could also run in a temporary election. Palin has claimed she has no definitive career plans.

It is worrisome, however, that Palin gained a national following despite being mired in an ethics scandal in her own state, allowing the Republican National Committee to buy her $150,000 in new clothes, and publicly calling the McCain aides who attacked her “small, bitter people” and “jerks.” Though she was eventually cleared of ethics charges, and the clothes have been explained away a million times, all of this behavior seems unbecoming of the strong and powerful politician she hopes to be. Unlike the outdated William Ayers accusations that plagued Obama, Palin’s scandals all developed in the last three months. Americans need to expect more of our politicians; even though the campaign trail brings out the worst in people, we must demand and expect ethical behavior from everyone who runs for office.

Regarding social ethics, Proposition 8, the Constitutional amendment-turned-celebrity bandwagon, passed in California last Tuesday to the shock and dismay of much of the socially liberal community of the nation. The ban, which passed with 52 percent of the vote, eliminated the right of same-sex couples to marry. Its passage represented a halt in the civic battle for equal rights in the state, where gay marriages had been legally performed and recognized since June.

But Proposition 8 gained substantial press nationwide due to its status as a well-recognized, leftward-leaning state. Bans on same-sex marriages won by even greater margins in Arizona and Florida last Tuesday. In Arizona, Proposition 102 amended the Arizona Constitution by defining marriage as an institution between a man and a woman. Moreover, a referendum was passed in the state that prohibits gay men and lesbians from adopting children.

It is exciting to see the much-needed change that our country will thrive upon realized after last Tuesday’s election, with regard to President-elect Obama’s win by a significant margin over former Republican candidate John McCain. But despite there being a increase in the role of the Democratic Party in the presidency and Congress, the passing of such conservative-minded bans in the California, Arizona, and Florida signal that any political party is likely never as single-minded as it may seem to be. While it took an array of Democratic and independent voters to elect Obama and Democratic congressmen to the House and Senate, many of those same voters were divided over how to vote — either in favor or against — bans against same-sex marriages. We should all, regardless of party affiliation, be careful of assuming that party lines are absolute.

Editorial Dissent, Matthew E. Campbell: I hope that the Obama administration realizes this election was decided by the economy (63 percent ranked it their biggest issue, NPR reported), and a vote for Obama is not necessarily an endorsement of a very liberal social agenda in support of gay marriage (as California and Florida showed), abortion, etc.

Important measures were voted for on the local level as well. Pennsylvanians voted in approval of a $400 million bond referendum to support the water and sewage systems in the state. This financial and political commitment is a step in the right direction for the cleaning of Pennsylvania’s water. That said, though, it is but a drop in the bucket compared to the $113.6 billion that the Sustainable Water Infrastructure Task Force estimates will be necessary over the next 20 years for the repair, upkeep, and maintenance of the drinking water and wastewater systems.

The money will be used for grants awarded by the Pennsylvania Infrastructure Investment Authority to all regions of the state to upgrade and repair their local water and wastewater systems, and will be paid for by an increase in taxes.

We are all for cleaner drinking water and think that the measure will bring about a much needed change in the infrastructure of Pennsylvania’s water and sewage system, much of which is deteriorating and will soon need to be replaced. The improvements will hopefully cut down on water main breaks like the one that caused Forbes Avenue to flood this past Thursday. In addition, the task force estimates that the referendum will create an additional 12,000 jobs as the repairs and upgrades are made, something that everyone can appreciate with the economy as weak as it is at present.