Opinion: Stubborn pangs of optimism hangover



Tyler Kieslich

Tyler Kieslich

Tyler Kieslich is a sophomore news major and columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected].

It’s been a week and a half since Election Day, so, naturally, CNN is once again relegated to irrelevance, Karl Rove is still pissed and the Twitter feeds of athletes and celebrities no longer espouse wide-eyed, idyllic reminders to fulfill your great democratic duty, instead returning to that tried old form of vaguely unintelligible mundanities. Glad to have you back, America.

I’m cynical enough about governance and the democratic process to understand that progress is always mind-numbingly slow, but sentimental enough to wake up last Wednesday morning feeling an odd sense of optimism about where we’re headed. Not only were we saved from four years of a Romney administration that would have, if nothing else, at least made it exceedingly difficult for me to finance my college education, but referendums in various states proved that a substantial portion of the electorate supports marriage equality and marijuana legalization. They aren’t just the favorite pet issues of progressives and liberals anymore.

It’s obvious that marriage equality is an inevitability that will leave those who oppose it on the wrong side of history. In 50 years, the memory of Rick Santorum will inhabit the more purgatorial annals of the American mythos, right alongside George Wallace and Richard Daley. With nine states already recognizing same-sex marriage as legitimate and lawful, it is only a matter of time before the entire country tires of such outdated, impractical and bigoted policy.

Marijuana legalization, on the other hand, while certainly gaining credence and legitimacy after Colorado and Washington passed measures legalizing recreational use of the drug, might have just been complicated by the election results. The Obama administration has already proven it is willing to go after dispensaries and suppliers in California, where medical use is legal. So buying and smoking weed in Colorado, while technically not unlawful according to the state, is still against federal law and potentially subject to federal punishment.

There is hope that the muddled legality of marijuana will be so much of a hassle that it will force the federal government to take a hard stance on the issue one way or the other. Any additional tax revenues accrued by Colorado and Washington will certainly be attractive to voters where similar issues will show up on ballots in two years. This is to say that Colorado and Washington were wins, not victories. There is progress to be made before America can claim to have a sensible drug policy.

I can only claim cognizance for maybe the last three election cycles, so where I might be long in enthusiasm and encouragement, I am certainly short on context. Especially considering all three have been called, at one point or another, the “election of a lifetime” — in 2004, it was a referendum on Iraq; 2008 was a chance to make the Oval Office less male and less pale.

It’s hard to say which ones will be remembered in history books. But right now, it’s hard to shake the feeling that 2012 will go down, not as the end of the world, but as the beginning of a shift toward a new one.