When I came to Duke, I didn’t think of myself as someone “interested” in politics. I was interested in policy, to be sure, but not in the nuts and bolts of how elected officials were chosen, and how those elected officials made decisions.
This year, in the midst of the hullabaloo of the North Carolina Democratic watch party in downtown Raleigh, I did my best to sort out what was happening county by county, precinct by precinct.
I am both and relieved and excited that President Obama will have another four years in office, and proud of my friends around the country who helped to re-elect him. And yet, I’m worried that President Obama won’t have good state governments to complement his policies. I’m worried especially about that here in North Carolina, where we lost the governorship and failed to take back the state House of Representatives or state Senate, both of which Republicans gained control of in 2010. I’m worried that budgets for our state’s schools, infrastructure and social services will continue to shrink. Although the private sector has created 4.5 million jobs under President Obama, public sector employment is down since he took office, largely because of layoffs at the state level.
I worry about our country because our constitution grants so much power to the states. But state and local newspapers are collapsing, civic institutions are weakening and knowledge and interest in these elections remain low. If Democrats had performed better in 2010 state legislative races, we’d have had much more favorable U.S. House districts in 2012, and the 113th Congress might have been as strong as the 111th—when we passed the Affordable Care Act, repealed Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, expanded Pell Grants and almost all of Obama’s other signature accomplishments. Instead, it is likely that the two years ahead will continue to be characterized by gridlock between a Republican House and a Democratic Senate and White House.
Obama deserved another term—his record on jobs and the economy in his 44 months in office far exceeded President Bush’s, and Obama has helped our nation deal with its biggest challenges, from the degradation of the environment, to the unnecessary scourge of medical uninsurance, which resulted in too many premature deaths. And yet, I retire for the night with mixed feelings.
Elena Botella is the president of College Democrats of North Carolina.