I consider it a privilege to have been in California during the 2012 US Presidential Election.
California is strongly Democratic (as in the political party), and Berkeley is a liberal bastion in the Golden State. Add a strongly left-leaning student body and a convenient time zone, and you have the ingredients for a euphoric night.
The tension began around 5pm, as polls on the East Coast closed and the counting began. Naturally, Romney took an early lead due to the concentration of small, sparsely populated Republican states and counties that counted votes quickly. But Obama's numbers clawed back as the night continued, as swing state after swing state went to Obama. Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin (the home of the Republican vice-presidential nominee Paul Ryan - Obama even won his home county!), and New Hampshire all went blue. Cheers for each one. Then the West Coast called in - California, Hawaii, Oregon, Washington State. New Mexico. Then Iowa. And finally, Ohio. Obama has won it. The Empire State Building has gone blue. The room erupted.
We went down to Sproul Plaza on the UC Berkeley campus, where thousands of students and staff had gathered to watch the coverage on an outdoor screen. The atmosphere was electric: chants of "USA! USA! Four more years! Obama!" echoed throughout the night, people ran through the crowd draped in American and rainbow flags to wild cheers, and people danced and sang to "I Gotta Feeling", and "Party in the USA" (possibly the best reaction I've ever seen to a Miley Cyrus number).
Fox actually did a live cross to a reporter at the plaza whilst we were waiting for the President's victory speech, resulting in wild screams for the network television audience. The concession speech passed, with momentary boos interjecting amongst Governor Romney's supposedly late-scripted remarks. And finally, after a long, long wait, the victory speech. The appreciation of a grateful President, who had won his final race. The biggest cheer of all as he finished, and acknowledged the crowds that had propelled him to the finish line.
I have never experienced anything like it. Call the process archaic. Call it inefficient. Call it whatever you think. Standing there, late at night on the first Tuesday in November, I joined in the cheering, the chanting, the screaming, and the dancing. I felt the shared happiness, the elation that their man had won and won big in a close election. That was democracy in action.
Four more years.