Barack Obama's elections -- both 2008 and 2012 -- have inaugurated a new political reality in America. He has rewritten history in two consecutive elections, and his groundbreaking victories will forever change the game of politics in our country. Before 2008 the political process was perceived as exclusive and elusive, accessible to only a few privileged players. But after two presidential elections of unprecedented campaign involvement and voter turnout, historically soft-spoken and underrepresented groups like African-Americans, Hispanics, gays, women, and young people are now reclaiming ownership of their political destinies. And the revolution is only just beginning.
Welcome to the Obama era.
President Obama has reengineered America's political atmosphere, where political inclusion has now replaced the status quo. Obama brings a new face to political leadership. He is a refreshing departure from the markedly un-diverse brand of presidents and politicians that preceded him. He is real and relatable and able to reach more people, which encourages new groups to become engaged in the political process. In the Obama era, politics is no longer an enterprise reserved for old balding White men. It is no longer an old boys' network or a country club aristocracy. Instead, it is a democracy built for and by the everyday American, and it is this inclusiveness that is politically energizing young people, women, and communities of color.
Already, Obama is opening doors for minority candidates. Rising stars like the San Antonio's Hispanic mayor, Julián Castro, Newark's African American mayor, Corey Booker, and the nation's first lesbian U.S. senator, Tammy Baldwin, mark the beginning of a shift in the paradigm for minority political participation. We are seeing more minority leadership because more minorities are becoming politically active. And we are guaranteed to see more diverse candidates in the future because the Obama presidency is inspiring the next generation of nontraditional politicians.
As demonstrated in the 2008 and 2012 elections, politics has become an inclusive marketplace of discussion, where people of all backgrounds are seizing control of America's future. The 2008 and 2012 elections demolished all records for minority and youth turnout. According to the Associated Press, "Obama shattered minority voting barriers and drove young voters to the polls unlike any candidate in generations." Whereas the Bush days had a poisonous effect on minority and youth political engagement, Cora Currier of CBS news reports that under Obama, "youth participation has doubled and tripled in many contests." According to the New York Times, record high mobilization for the Obama campaign in black and Latino communities helped push him over the threshold for a victory on Election Day.
This caliber of political engagement is unheard of from these voting blocs. Voter apathy and jadedness has traditionally kept Blacks, Latinos, and young people from the polls and out of campaigns. But in the Obama Era, all this has changed. In this new age, young people are building phone-banking empires with Facebook, cellphones, and laptops. African-Americans are operating community campaign centers out of churches and beauty salons. Women are now dominating the airwaves, ignited by an election that revolves largely around their personal rights. All because people feel a new sense of investment in the political system. All because of President Obama.
Christian Angulo, a Hispanic political science major at Stanford University recounts the extent of the Obama Effect:
"Since President Obama won the 2008 presidential election, I have felt more connected to the political process. The difference was that I saw President Obama as someone I would love to play a game of basketball with and to get to know him at a personal level -- not just as our head of state. The fact that I can relate to him at a more personal level definitely affects my interest in politics."
Christian's sentiments echo those of millions of young Americans, women, and minorities across the nation: The Obama presidency has transformed politics from something that is remote and uninteresting to something that is personal and accessible.
Obama connects with a broader spectrum of people than past candidates and presidents have. Reagan alienated Black voters with his Welfare Queen caricature. Romney dyed his face orange trying to appeal to Hispanic Univision viewers. Bush refused to let Hurricane Katrina ruin the end of his vacation, surveying the ruined low-income communities from the comfort of Air Force One instead of consoling families on the ground. These types of blunders make it clear why many groups historically have felt disconnected from political leadership.
Obama's massive appeal to minorities, women, and youth is that he is relatable. He's real. Little Black boys find confidence in the fact that the president's hair texture is the same as theirs. Latino parents find assurance in the fact that their president speaks their native tongue. Middle age women find solace in the fact that their president has two young daughters and will protect a woman's right to her own body. College students across the nation find inspiration in the fact that their president can shoot the breeze with foreign heads of state, shoot down terrorist masterminds, and shoot a wicked jump shot all at the same time. Obama has both swagger and substance, a potent combination that prior commanders in chief have lacked. It's simple. More people feel connected to the political process because now more people feel connected to their political leader.
The Obama era is a new age that politically empowers the people that the political process has historically overlooked. It is an age where those who were once voiceless have become the most vocal; where the most apathetic have claimed significant authority. Now that minorities and women and youth have taken the reins in the past two elections, I don't see this trend changing any time soon.
Folks, it is a new day in America.
There is a new kind of rhythm in the streets. There is a new kind of voice in the fray. There is a new kind of optimism in the wind. Why? Because there is a new kind of president in the White House.
Welcome to the Obama Era.