The morning after the election, I woke up feeling calm. It was over. It was time to let go of the anxiety, and move forward. Thankfully, we were going to be able to just move forward, instead of enduring 4 years of Romney before getting another chance.
My thoughts kept returning to 2004, and realizing that this time, we were on the other side. Many of you probably have similar memories to the ones I have of the Bush/Kerry election. The polls said that Bush would win, but they were close. We didn't trust the polls. We talked about how the polls didn't reach people who relied on cellphones, and since many of us rely on cellphones, there would be lots of Democrats uncounted in the polls. We believed that the youth vote would turn out in droves, and would make up the difference. We thought that the Bush supporters weren't as enthusiastic as we were, and they would stay home. Maybe Kerry wasn't the perfect candidate, but Bush was so bad, we didn't think it would really matter.
And so, despite knowing better on some level, we really thought Kerry would win. It felt like a punch to the stomach when he did not. It felt impossible. Bush won in 2000 by the slimmest of margins, and due to legal gymnastics. 2004 was worse, because it hurt. It hurt to realize that it was no accident. After 4 years of President Bush, the majority of America actually went out and voted for him again. It seemed impossible, but it was reality. America chose Bush.
There are clearly some parallels here to how the Romney voters are feeling now. To them, it must seem impossible that this has happened. For many of them, almost everyone they know would never ever vote for Obama, because everyone they know talks about how bad Obama is. How could he win? It will take some time to accept.
I can relate to the feeling of wanting to leave the country. At least (unlike Kristin Neel) I had some realistic options. Other countries aren't perfect, but some of them do seem to be more in line with my values than the Bush USA did. I decided on New Zealand. I applied to the University of Auckland for an advanced degree, and was accepted. I talked to real estate agents, applied for mortgage pre-approval, and reserved plane tickets and quarantine stays for my dogs. I really almost went. But then it was early 2008, and Obama started winning primaries, and I started to have hope. I decided to stay, and to do what I could to fix the damage of the Bush years. Instead of New Zealand, I moved to New Orleans.
Ok, enough of a tangent into my story. My point is, many Romney voters this week are feeling the same shock, revulsion and despair that I felt in 2004. Do I feel sorry for them? No, because I think they are deeply misguided. But what will they do when they accept the reality, that the USA is not what they want it to be? They don't really have any options for other places to go. There aren't other countries out there that are going to accommodate their worldview. They are on the wrong side of history. So they are going to stay where they are. They will feel sad, and bitter, and they might feel doomed.
What will they do with that feeling? This one loss won't be enough to end their hopes. They're going to fight harder next time, they are going to look for a better candidate to represent them. They will realize that they only lost by a few percentage points, and that if a few things had gone differently, they would have won. If they lose again in 2016? Will that bring about some re-evaluations? Maybe.
I'm just reminding myself that while this was a good win, there will be more challenges up ahead. It's ok to take a little break and enjoy this victory, but not to celebrate for too long. Over at Redstate, Erick Erickson is already talking about how in 2016 there will be no natural successor to Obama, so the GOP will have a great chance. While there is a demographic change in the USA, and the Republican party of old white men will have to change, it's important to remember that only a few percentage points made the difference in this election.
I won't forget how I felt on election night in 2004, and it will keep me motivated in the years to come.