In the aftermath of an election in which President Barack Obama lost only two states that he had won four years ago, the difference between 2008 and 2012 was palpable.
The selection of the first black president of the United States in 2008 resulted in euphoria among his supporters. Tears of joy and spontaneous celebrations were the norm all over the country.
This year, there is less euphoria and more a sense of relief.
Relief that somehow Obama had found a way to confound the conventional wisdom that a 7.9 percent unemployment rate was far too high for any president to be re-elected. No one had done that since Franklin D. Roosevelt.
Relief that because Obama is likely to appoint two or even three Supreme Court justices, Roe v. Wade will not be overturned.
Relief that the most popular aspects of Obamacare — concerning pre-existing conditions, young people being covered by their parents’ insurance longer, and greater access to preventive care and medical screenings — will become entrenched policy.
Relief that Mitt Romney was not elected. Throughout the campaign, Romney was a human weathervane, with no apparent core beliefs other than he wanted to be president. He ran way too far to the right during the primaries — especially on immigration — and then dashed to the middle in the final few weeks.
After securing the Republican nomination, Romney showed a cynical disregard for voters’ intelligence that began with taking Obama’s “you didn’t build that” remark completely out of context, and finishing with an ad he knew was false about Jeep supposedly moving American jobs to China.
Relief that President Obama won’t allow the oil companies to write our energy policy like they did under George W. Bush, or to cave to those on the far right who have a disregard for the science of global warming bordering upon contempt.
Relief that all the hundreds of millions of dollars funneled by a very few fat cats to outside groups dedicated to defeating Obama and Democratic Senate candidates could not buy the election.
Relief that the vile voter suppression efforts by Republicans in several states — notably Florida, Pennsylvania and Ohio — could not keep most folks from the polls.
Close to home, the re-election of Sen. James Seward, Assemblymen Pete Lopez, Bill Magee and Claudia Tenney, and Congressmen Chris Gibson and Richard Hanna — all but Magee, Republicans — showed that the public yearns for moderate, thoughtful leaders willing to work with the other side.
Among the many lessons of the 2012 election is that Americans want their government to work. They will reward candidates open to compromise … and punish those who aren’t.