The elections are over. What's done is done. You're likely either very happy with the results, very unhappy with the results, or feeling kind of "meh" about the whole thing.
Regardless, this is an election that will go down in history, as it has broken the 232 year trend in this nation of only having white men in office. Love him or hate him, the election of Barack Obama is truly a historic event. On top of electing our first black president, voter turnout was the highest it's been in 90 years, since women gained the right to vote. Estimates are putting voter turnout somewhere between 80-90 percent of all voting age citizens. Between these two facts alone, this election was one for the books. Hopefully it'll signify a trend in future elections, which will be far more fair if people just got out and voted like they did this year.
Additionally, the voting results in traditionally Republican states such as Virginia, Florida, Indiana, Colorado, and the as yet unannounced (but slightly leaning blue) North Carolina signals a downfall and decline of the modern (post-Regan) Republican party. Many Republicans are jumping ship, and party member numbers of such parties as the Libertarians and Constitution Party have jumped as former Republicans have rethought their political affiliations. More commonly, however, many Republicans are confused as to what to do, and only voted for McCain because they're too conservative to vote for Obama, yet didn't really like McCain, but didn't see any other choice. My own mother falls into this category. She feels that McCain would have been horrible for this country, but that didn't surpass her hatred of Obama's politics. She voted for Ron Paul in the primaries, but as he wasn't on the ticket on November 4th, she decided to go for McCain, not knowing that Paul had endorsed Chuck Baldwin of the Constitution Party. She has been seriously reconsidering her party affiliation as well, as she doesn't feel that the Republicans serve her needs any longer.
This is a common story among Republicans, who believe in traditional Republican code - small government and uphold the Constitution, yet the modern Republican party doesn't practice that code. Also, the current Republican party doesn't have any clear leader left. They've always operated with a clear leader - someone well-known in the political circles, who demonstrates the values of the Republican Party. After this election, the Republican party will be forced to regroup and redefine themselves. The American people, and particularly those within the Republican Party are no longer willing to listen to the religious extremist minority that have taken control of the party. Either the Republican Party will redefine themselves, or they will fail. They are finally starting to see that, particularly with the strong showing for third party candidates (mostly conservative - Libertarians, Constitution, and Independent) in this election (over 2% of the vote, between all third party candidates, mostly taken from the McCain vote - quite a significant number, and enough to have tilted the election closer to a McCain victory) that people are leaving their ranks, and voting for other candidates, often candidates with little to no mainstream press coverage, who have a more traditional conservative view. Hell, even Ron Paul, who only appeared on the ballot in Louisiana, and was an accepted write-in in only four other states even got a tenth of a percent of the vote - as much as Cynthia McKinney, the Green Party candidate, who appeared on ballots in at least 2/3 of the country.
Finally, I want to close with a few comments on some state/local referendum votes that were publicized nationwide.
First, I'll address the one that's been on everyone's mind - California Proposition 8 - a ban on same-sex marriages. It was announced at approximately 1:30 this afternoon (Eastern time) that it had been officially passed (52.5% to 47.5%). This ban prohibits same sex marriages, and even though the California government claims that it will continue to recognize the approximately 30,000 same-sex marriages that were performed since it was legalized a few short months ago, it acknowledges that legal challenges may invalidate such unions. Honestly, where does something like this even start to belong in government, at any level? Marriage is traditionally a religious institution. Some progressive churches recognize same-sex marriages as valid. Shouldn't it, in that case, be protected under the First Amendment right to freedom of religion? Even taking a moment and subtracting religion from the equation - what really is marriage? What benefits does it give the married couple? Predominately, it gives married couples tax breaks, the right to visitation during hospital stays, the right to share health insurance coverage. How does this harm anything? If two people are in love, these should be guaranteed rights, regardless of marital status. Additionally, how does the marital union of Adam and Steve affect the sanctity of the marital union between John and Jane? It doesn't. Bottom line is this: two people are in love. They should have the right to join in a legal union. Banning this legal union is completely asinine, and arguably unconstitutional, if religion is involved.
Nebraska banned Affirmative Action. as far as I know, they are the first state in the Union to do that. The Affirmative Acton programs have been broken for a very long time, and have been in need of, at the least, a serious reformation, and at the most, a complete abolition. I welcome Nebraska's precedent.
Missouri voted overwhelmingly (86.3% to 13.3%) to make English the official state language. This is kind of a bittersweet precedent. On one side, it appears that lawmakers in the state have listened when people have argued that English is not the official language of America when others have argued that all residents should speak English. On the other hand, it could very well be an isolationist signal that Missouri doesn't want non-English speaking immigrants, defying the words written on the Statue of Liberty. Overall, I think I can accept it more in Missouri than I could in a state such as New York or Florida, where a large portion of the population is made up of immigrants.
South Dakota, as conservative a state as it is, voted 55.2% to 44.8% against an abortion ban. A victory such as this shows that Roe v. Wade will stand. Women's rights are safe.
Massachussetts voted 65.2% to 34.8% in favor of decriminalizing marijuana, which is another major milestone in the various legalization efforts across the country. I'm not one to want to partake in marijuana, even if it were legal, but from a practical standpoint, legalizing it would save a lot of taxpayer dollars. How many people are in jail because they were found with a joint in their pocket?
Michigan also voted to legalize medical marijuana and allow stem cell research. The latter is a huge deal, as it provides a safe haven within the US to research into a potentially highly valuable segment of medicine, currently either prohibited or discouraged throughout the rest of the nation - a segment of medicine that is becoming far less reliant on fetal stem cells, and can be carried out with far less fatal sources of stem cells, almost as good as the fetal stem cells.
In the least talked about, but likely second most important state issue this election (second only to CA Prop 8, mentioned above) was the Florida bill to define marriage, passed overwhelmingly 62.1% to 31.9%, which not only defines marriage and further prohibits same-sex marriage in Florida, but also deems any union outside of actual marriage (religious or legal) would be null and void under Florida law. This includes civil unions, common law marriages (recognized in Florida since it first became a state), and other types of non-marriage unions between two people, regardless of the genders of the people involved in the union (it would ban both opposite-sex and same-sex unions). This is a measure that shouldn't have been entertained by even the marginally intelligent people, let alone the average voting population of Florida. Apparently, much like the Slots Amendment in Maryland, it was railroaded through with little education of the public. Most of the people voting for it thought they were voting against same-sex marriage, not heterosexual legal unions as well.
I won't even go into the last issue that irks me this year - the Maryland Slots Constitutional Amendment. That's worthy of a post unto itself.