Historic Election 2008: For the Record Books

As the first Republican woman on the presidential ticket, Palin's nomination came two decades after that of former New York Democrat Geraldine Ferraro, who ran unsuccessfully for vice president in 1984.

'Hillary Made Progress for All of Us'

"Everything has changed because of Hillary's success, particularly in the end where she was so persistent and strong -- she moved women across the country," said Marie Wilson, founder of The White Project, which is dedicated to advancing women in leadership roles. "She made progress for all of us."

Not only did Palin and Clinton serve as role models for aspiring young women, but so did the newscasters, according to Wilson. Ratings and interest were strong for both news and comedy shows led by females.

MSNBC's Rachel Maddow saw her election show double in ratings in just one month; both CNN's Campbell Brown and CBS's Katie Couric got high marks for their combative interviews.

"We are seeing women as experts," Wilson told ABCNews.com. "Women are being looked to as decision makers."

Even Palin's self-described "pitbull in lipstick" image inspired, according to Wilson. "Women are motivated by her confidence."

Not only women, but youth have been electrified by the 2008 race. An estimated 6.5 million new voters under the age of 30 participated in the primaries, according to the Center for Information and Research on Learning and Engagement.

Obama has turned to social networking tools like Facebook and text messaging to engage new voters. McCain has appealed directly to youth on MTV and used YouTube for political advertising.

Interest has intensified as record numbers of viewers, both young and old, have pushed up ratings for comedy shows like "Saturday Night Live" to watch spoofs of both candidates and their running mates.

Youth and Technology

Technology, especially cell phones, has also helped fuel the youth vote. "It's provided a way to reach people at a speed and depth that is unprecedented," said Sujatha Jahagirdar, director for Student PIRG's New Voters Project.

"The excitement is palpable," she told ABCNews.com. In 16 out of 17 states where PIRG did exit polls in the primaries, youth turnout had doubled since 2000.

"The level of participation that we've seen is unprecedented and born out by the numbers," she said. "The reason was the competitive primary, and it was on both sides of the aisle. Civic engagement is a post-9/11 phenomenon -- the realization that politics matters to their lives."

'Pay Attention to Young People'

"The lesson that comes out of the election is when you pay attention to young people, they pay attention to you," said Jahagirdar.

Political observers say these new demographics, combined with a dissatisfaction with the Bush White House may change the face of American politics for yet another generation.

"People are fed up with the status quo -- they are not happy with the economy or the war," said Smith. "They are fed up with the way politics works or doesn't work."

Still, like the swing of the pendulum in presidential elections past, the changes wrought by this powerhouse election may shift the political culture -- but not necessarily forever.

"There is no such thing as a permanent coalition, a permanent majority or a permanent anything," said Smith. "But that is not to minimize the magnitude of what's transpiring. This is not insignificant simply because it can't last forever."

  • 1
  • |
  • 2
  • |
  • 3
  • |
  • 4
Join the Discussion
blog comments powered by Disqus
You Might Also Like...