EDITORIAL: Election night signaled a generational shift

Tuesday night marked the beginning of a new era in American politics: one more tolerant, more diverse and younger than ever before.

Ever since the 2010 midterm elections, talk among cable news pundits was that the coalition of young voters and minorities who swept Barack Obama into the White House in 2008 was fleeting. They said his coalition was disillusioned with the political process, and Tuesday was supposed to signal a shift back to the old guard, a.k.a. old, white people.

The talking heads could not have been more wrong.

Turnout among Latinos and African Americans actually increased, according to most exit polls. Younger voters turned out nationwide at about the same rate they did in 2008, and 60 percent of people ages 18 to 29 voted for Obama.

Not only did this coalition singlehandedly deliver Obama a second term, thereby ensuring reforms in health care and student loans are fully implemented, they made their voices heard at the state level as well, approving of gay marriage in four states, electing a record number of women senators and voting to end absurd marijuana laws in Colorado and Washington.

Welcome to 21st Century America.

The Democratic Party and campaign officials and volunteers in the Obama campaign deserve a lot of credit for galvanizing younger people and making people who would never think of becoming a part of the political process major players in it.

At the same time, the Republican Party has itself to blame for alienating young people and minorities, especially Latinos.

For eight years, the Bush administration fed the American people lie after lie about the rationale for a needless war and misguided policies, culminating in the mountain of debt and deep recession we're still trying to recover from today. A whole generation of young people and a growing minority population, fed up with the lies, have turned against the GOP, and as long as they continue to double down on those policies, they have little hope of gaining ground among them. It is going to take a more open, more accepting Republican Party, one that appeals to minorities, for it to take the White House.

It is often said that this generation is selfish and entitled, not caring to seek out news or become involved in the political process.

Tuesday proved otherwise. Our generation, with help from a newly empowered minority population, has dramatically altered the political landscape in the United States, and the ramifications of that change will be felt for decades.