Election day, regardless of its outcome, always serves as a reminder to me.
I come from a family of Democrats. I was raised in Chicago. I've lived in New York and Los Angeles. My life has taken me from one blue state to another. Each election, my Facebook feed is filled with updates from friends, all of whom are self-professed, hardcore Democrats. I currently live in London, and my peers abroad take it as a given that I, much like all of them, am an Obama supporter.
Every four years, I hold on to this world to predict the outcome of an election. I'm almost always optimistic, sometimes cautiously so, but still optimistic - because my world is painted in a monochromatic blue.
And each election, I am reminded of the truth - that we are indeed very much a nation of 50/50 - of both blue and of red. This year, more than the years before, it seems as if the deep ideological separation that divides parties has reached its peak. We are less a nation of moderates, and more a nation of extremes. Contrary to Obama's speeches, we are, it seems, a collection of red states and blue states.
The problem with this is that we have created little room for the middle, not just a political middle, but for a middle ground that can provide us with a measure of progress. We instead identify as Democrats or Republicans, and when one party wins the presidency, supporters of the other resign themselves to taking a back seat for four years, unless it is to express their dissatisfaction with the president and others in his party. I've done this myself, in 2004 with George Bush - I was beyond frustrated by his election, I criticized his efforts (I didn't threaten to move to Canada as many of my friends did), and I waited until 2008 for the opportunity to make a change, to feel that I could really participate in politics once again. I stopped learning because I didn't agree with the views of the person in power. For four years, I didn't offer up much of an attempt to really work on issues that mattered to me (beyond complaining about the administrations' handling of them). I remained angry and resentful.
Unity isn't just a job for Obama or Romney or whoever wins the White House. It's not just about bridging the aisle in the House or the Senate. Instead, it is about staying engaged in the political process beyond an election - for all of us, especially in a time as politically polarized as we are in now. Progress is talking about issues that are important to you, with others who have opinions that differ from your own. It means continuing to be engaged in politics in a constructive way, regardless of your party affiliation and your beliefs on who should have won, and who really did. We may be red states and blue states, but we also may want more in common than we think, and that's important to remember regardless of who we elect as president.