After 22 months of presidential campaigning came to a close last Tuesday, supporters of President-elect Barack Obama are celebrating the nation’s turning point in electing its first African-American president and preparing for what they hope to be positive changes in the next four years.
“I’m very, very happy,” said junior Elizabeth Hanson, political science major and president of Temple College Democrats. “It’s definitely a victory that we were looking for. I’m incredibly proud of all the work the Temple College Democrats have done on campus this semester.
“I think it’s remarkable. It was incredibly moving to see. People were waving flags and singing the ‘Star-Spangled Banner’ on election night. There was a sense of unity. We’re working together to create something positive.”
Hanson said Temple College Democrats is celebrating and making plans for Obama’s inauguration. The organization will then shift its concentration to local and state politics.
“We’ll keep working to make sure the promises made to students and all Americans are kept by local and national politicians,” Hanson said.
“I’m not pleased with the results of the election,” said Michael Nerozzi, a senior political science major and vice president of Temple College Republicans. “It’s not my personal choice, but I felt in 2000 and 2004 when Bush won, there were bitter people saying ‘He’s not my president.’ No matter the party or person, I still salute him as commander in chief and respect him as my president. It’s the preference of the American people.”
Nerozzi said the College Republicans will be taking it easy for a while. Members are currently planning a trip to the Conservative Political Action Convention where prominent Republican figures will speak.
Speakers this year include Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.
“The morale of the Temple College Republicans is not at its highest, but generally everyone is supportive,” Nerozzi said.
“It’s quite exciting having the first African-American president,” political science professor Gregg Lindskog said.
“It affirms America’s core principle of political equality,” he said. “Obama was able to excite people on the left and independents and increase voter turnout. It was quite unexpected.”
“Personally it’s very encouraging,” said Kareem Johnson, assistant professor of psychology. “I’m very proud of our country and Obama.”
Lindskog said he thinks Obama will work with President George W. Bush during the transition period or step back and build his cabinet and announce his policy initiatives.
“After a period of bipartisanship during Obama’s presidency, we’ll probably see a period of Republicans being increasingly aggressive against Obama and the Democratic Congress,” Lindskog said. “He’ll have difficulty passing things like universal health care.”
Nerozzi said he expects Obama to be tested in the first months of his presidency.
Johnson said he thinks the election of the first African-American president will have some effect on society, but it’s not going to be overwhelming.
“It’s progress, and a barrier has been broken,” Johnson said. “It’s the biggest symbol that America is a place of opportunity. It is not the end of racial troubles, and it doesn’t necessarily change the psychology of race relations.”
Johnson said the success of one person or one individual is not necessarily an indication the entire situation has improved.
An individual case doesn’t change the stereotypes and situation of a group, he said.
“A bit of optimism, even if a bit unrealistic, is actually more psychologically healthy,” Johnson said. “It gives us hope that we have come to a turning point and that some of the old problems that still persist may be able to fade away after a lot more hard work.”
“A lot of students and people who worked for the campaigns put a part of themselves into it,” Johnson said. “Now that it’s over, there’s a void.”
“The fear is those who were active will dissipate and go back to their normal lives,” Lindskog said. “Certainly, Obama wants to connect them to national service in some way. They can’t sit back and assume that he’ll be able to change everything.”
Johnson said the result will differ with each person. Those who have always been active will probably stay energized, but those who got involved due to social reinforcements will most likely revert back to their usual activities, he said.
“We saw a lot of partisanship in this election,” Nerozzi said. “I hope the Temple community takes a look at what our university’s message is.”
“Temple is a diverse community with people of different views,” Nerozzi said. “We can’t forget that conservatism is a part of that. I understand students are excited, but please respect other people’s views.”
“I hope students stay engaged now that the election is over,” Hanson said. “As Barack Obama said, ‘Our work has just begun.’”
Kathryn A. López can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.