Sarah Roessler ’16
“Ladies and gentlemen, the Forty-fourth President of the United States of America: Barack Obama,” echoed the proclamation late Tuesday night. It is official: the first African-American President was re-elected for a second term. After one of the lengthiest, most expensive (estimates at over $6 billion), and most tumultuous campaign seasons to date, it feels almost anti-climactic for it to be over at last. It seemed we might have a repeat of the 2000 Bush/Gore scenario when Democratic candidate Al Gore won the popular vote but not the electoral vote, but this was not the case. According to Politico’s most recent numbers, Obama securely claimed victory with 303 electoral votes and just over 50% of the popular vote. The critical question prior to the election was which way the battleground states would swing, especially Ohio, Florida, and Virginia. Obama won in both Ohio and Virginia — he had just over 50% of the popular vote in both states. Florida was such a close race; even now the votes are still being calculated.
The media is abuzz with the incumbent’s victory and rightly so, but Obama’s re-election was not the only important win on Tuesday night. The Huffington Post released an article highlighting other significant victories. Women did particularly well this election season, with a record number of female candidates winning seats in the Senate. On the contrary, male candidates who made controversial remarks about rape lost their elections. The LGBT community also attained several victories. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) became the first openly gay person to be elected as Senator. Both Maryland and Maine voted to legalize gay marriage, and Washington joined these states when the results became official late on Thursday.
Similar to President Obama’s re-election, political power has remained much the same in the other branches of government. A BBC article confirmed the Democratic Party will retain control of the U.S. Senate, gaining a 55-45 majority, and Republicans will maintain the majority in the House of Representatives.
In the midst of election news, however, it seems as though America has momentarily forgotten the recent disaster on the eastern coast of the United States. While the media may be moving on, many Americans are far from looking past Hurricane Sandy. Some of those affected were too far from their registered voting locations to cast ballots, but that was the least of their concerns. An article from ABC states that “tens of thousands” of people are still homeless. More than 1.4 million homes and businesses are still without power, with 115,000 in New York City alone. Sandy has left as many as 40,000 New Yorkers homeless according to city officials. About half of those residents live in public housing. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has spent approximately $200 million in emergency assistance to place 34,000 New York and New Jersey residents in hotels. However, no official plan exists to move these people into long-term housing. The Red Cross is also actively involved in the recovery process. And as the region is still trying to repair the damage left by Sandy, another nor’easter struck this week. So while the rest of the country may be occupied by election news, many Americans in the Northeast are understandably more concerned about their next meal than the next person in office.
Our nation took several steps forward this week. We elected a President. We changed some seats in the Senate and House. But we should keep in mind that not everyone can move on. We have power as citizens of the United States. We elect our officials and voice our opinions. We cannot forget those still suffering from the storm — we must use our influence to make changes where they are needed.