By Wayne Drash, CNN
(CNN) - After their son was killed in battle in Afghanistan, Lori and Jeff Wilfahrt crisscrossed their home state of Minnesota. They spoke at churches, schools, book clubs. They spoke of Cpl. Andrew Wilfahrt's love of country and the Constitution.
They spoke, too, of grief. They are a mother and father who utterly miss their son, a soldier who was openly gay.
On Tuesday, November 6, the Wilfahrts entered their polling station in Rosemount to vote against a state constitutional amendment defining marriage as solely between a man and woman. Both parents wondered: Had their boy died protecting homophobes who would deny him rights back home?
In Frederick, Maryland, the Rev. Barbara Kershner Daniel had lived with guilt for nearly 25 years. A fellow preacher who was gay had asked her to officiate his wedding with his partner. She told him no.
"Why did I do that?" she has asked herself ever since.
Mark Ellis, the former GOP state chairman in Maine, knew where he stood on the issue of same-sex marriage. Yet he struggled with whether it would hurt him professionally to break from his party.
In the northern suburbs of Seattle, middle school band and orchestra teacher Michael Clark had always spoken of dignity and respect for all. He and his partner of 18 years sat together at their dining table to vote early this year.
Their ballots weren't just votes. They were an affirmation of their love.
From Minnesota to Maryland, from Maine to Washington, this mixed coalition of voters - grieving parents, a preacher, a lifelong Republican and a gay couple - joined forces to push for historic change on same-sex marriage.
Never before had a state rejected a constitutional amendment to prevent gays from marrying. Minnesota did just that, in part spurred by the Wilfahrts' activism.
Never before had voters approved laws allowing same-sex marriage. Maryland, Maine and Washington did just that. Those states may not have garnered enough votes if ordinary citizens like Daniel, Ellis and
Clark had remained quiet.
Each took up the cause for personal reasons shaped by life experiences. Together, they surprised America; their voices emerged as a sign of a more progressive electorate that's grown tired of arguments that say marriage between two men or two women undermines the institution and the very fabric of society.
Editor's note: Roland Martin is a syndicated columnist and author of "The First: President Barack Obama's Road to the White House." He is a commentator for the TV One cable network and host/managing editor of its Sunday morning news show, "Washington Watch with Roland Martin."
By Roland Martin, CNN Contributor
(CNN) - If you took a moment during the heat of the presidential race to drop by the Mitt Romney campaign office, you would have been shocked by the number of white people working to get him elected. About the only color you would have seen were the red and white in the Romney-Ryan posters.
If you met with Romney's senior campaign team - the decision makers - you would have said major corporations in America have more diversity on their boards of directors than these guys.
At a Romney campaign event, followers of mine on Twitter always played the "do-you-know-that-one-black-person-who-is-always-standing-behind-Mitt-with-a-sign" game. Seriously. Seeing someone black, Hispanic or Asian at a Romney campaign rally was always a sight to behold.
So why in the world is Mitt Romney now largely blaming minorities for the butt-kicking administered to him by President Obama?
By Ashley Killough and Kevin Bohn, CNN
(CNN) – Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana fiercely shot back at Mitt Romney’s claim Wednesday that President Barack Obama outmatched the 2012 Republican presidential nominee by offering "gifts" to African-Americans, Hispanics and young voters.
“I absolutely reject that notion,” Jindal, who was a surrogate for Romney’s campaign, said at the Republican Governors Association conference in Las Vegas. “I think that's absolutely wrong.”
“I don't think that represents where we are as a party and where we're going as a party,” he continued. “That has got to be one of the most fundamental takeaways from this election.”
Romney made the comments on a call with top donors Wednesday afternoon, various news outlets have reported. The former Massachusetts governor also made similar arguments on a separate call earlier in the morning, CNN confirmed.
"What the president, president's campaign did was focus on certain members of his base coalition, give them extraordinary financial gifts from the government, and then work very aggressively to turn them out to vote," Romney said in the afternoon call, according to audio aired on ABC News.
Romney, who lost to Obama by 126 electoral votes, said the president courted voters by offering policies – some of them this election year – that appealed to key constituencies.
"With regards to the young people, for instance, a forgiveness of college loan interest, was a big gift," Romney said, according to The New York Times.
"Free contraceptives were very big with young college-aged women," he continued. "And then, finally, Obamacare also made a difference for them, because as you know, anybody now 26 years of age and younger was now going to be part of their parents' plan, and that was a big gift to young people. They turned out in large numbers, a larger share in this election even than in 2008."
The president's health care reform plan, he added, also brought out support from African Americans and Hispanic voters.
By Alicia W. Stewart, CNN
(CNN) - In his first major news conference since March, President Barack Obama expressed confidence in passing immigration reform in his second term.
"You're starting to see a sense of empowerment and civic participation (among Latinos) that I think is going to be powerful and good for the country," he said. "And it is why I'm very confident that we can get immigration reform done."
In response to a question from Telemundo reporter Lori Montenegro, the president spoke about increased Latino voter turnout, the DREAM Act and border security.
Read his full answer in the excerpt below. You can also read the full transcript of the news conference here. FULL POST
By Cindy Y. Rodriguez, CNN
(CNN) - For the first time, CNN exit polls show, Cuban-Americans in Florida voted for a Democratic candidate over a Republican, 49% to 47%.
Cuban-Americans in Florida have reliably voted Republican and have been a factor in some presidential outcomes in the coveted swing state.
In 2008, more Cuban-Americans voted for John McCain over Barack Obama, 53% to 47%. In 2004, the preference was for George W. Bush, 79%-21% over John Kerry.
In 2012, many voters like retiree Antonio Villasuso believed that the president deserved a second chance.
“When Obama arrived, the country was destroyed, and now there is at least something," he said. "I don’t believe he can fix everything, but I don’t think (Mitt) Romney could have fixed any of our problems.”
Obama carried Florida’s Hispanic vote 60% to 39%, this year, an increase from 57% to 42% in 2008. Nationally, the president won 71% of the Latino vote, with key wins in swing states like Florida. FULL POST
By Halimah Abdullah, CNN
Washington (CNN) - When the incoming U.S. House freshmen of the 113th Congress take their class photo, the image will reflect two very different visions of the nation.
On the Democratic side: Women and minorities - a coalition that, along with young voters, largely helped re-elect President Barack Obama - collectively will for the first time in the nation's history outnumber white male Democrats.
On the Republican side: The majority of the House seats will be held by white men - a group which far outnumbers the now dwindled numbers of House GOP women and minorities after the losses of two minority members and about a half dozen women from that caucus.
"They say that a picture is worth a thousand words. Well the picture that you see before you is worth millions of votes, millions of aspirations and dreams of the American people for problem-solvers to come to Washington to get to the job done, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said in welcoming the incoming freshman class to the Capitol for orientation.
"Today we officially welcome our Democratic freshmen to Washington. They are extraordinary leaders who will make our House Democratic caucus the first caucus in history, in the history of civilized government, to have a majority of women and minorities in the caucus."
It also symbolizes something else that is more troubling politically.
"It's basically a sign that both parties are distilling to their core, and they are living in parallel universes," said David Wasserman, House editor for the Cook Political Report.
By Mariano Castillo, CNN
(CNN) - Comprehensive immigration reform has so far eluded President Barack Obama. But with his re-election victory in battleground states propelled by strong Latino support, Democrats and Republicans in Congress have a stronger interest in cultivating support from a group with growing political clout.
Here are five reasons why the time may be right for immigration reform to take hold in Washington.
1) The voters have spoken
Immigration reform may not have been the biggest issue in the election - the economy was paramount - but it is very important to a key segment of voters. Latino voters turned out in force and helped to tip battleground states in Obama's favor. The number of registered Latinos has increased by 26% in the past four years to 12.2 million, or 8.7% of all voters. That means this demographic will only increase its political power. Issues important to this minority logically will become increasingly important to both major political parties.
2) Obama promised but failed to deliver on immigration reform
Obama promised to push for immigration reform before the 2008 election and had to answer tough questions from Latinos about why that did not occur. At a forum by the Spanish-language Univision network, Obama was pressed to admit that he had fallen short and took responsibility for a lack of action. But the president also said he didn't promise he would accomplish everything he wanted right away.
By Mary Grace Lucas, CNN
Washington (CNN) – Sen. Charles Schumer, the third ranking Senate Democrat, said Sunday that he and Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham will officially restart immigration reform talks that crumbled two years ago.
Schumer told NBC's "Meet the Press" Sunday that he and Graham have a plan designed to appeal to stakeholders on all sides of the highly contentious issue and he's optimistic that it can get through a gridlocked Congress.
"[Sen.] Graham and I are talking to our colleagues about this right now. I think we have a darn good chance using this blueprint to get something done this year," Schumer said.
The plan includes four key elements: stronger border security, creation of non-forgeable proof-of-citizenship documents, fairer legal immigration for desirable candidates, and a tough-love path to citizenship for those already in the U.S.
(CNN) - As political pros, journalists and pundits pick over exit polls to study how and why President Obama beat Mitt Romney for the presidency, a lot of the attention has been showered on the Latino turnout, gender gap and voters under 30.
The African-American turnout has largely been overlooked, seen by prognosticators as a no-brainer for President Obama.
There was never any doubt he was going to receive the overwhelming majority of black support. In 2008, Obama won 95% of the black vote, with black women voting at a higher rate than any other group in the country.
But six to nine months ago, numerous Obama campaign workers were privately expressing concern about the enthusiasm level of black voters, and about whether the massive 2008 turnout could be equaled.
They hoped registration efforts and get-out-the-vote drives would kick in at the right time.
Re-electing the first black president was clearly a motivating factor for African-Americans, but what also should be noted is the Republican Party's efforts to enact voter suppression laws.
Not only were black folks angered and shocked at Republicans' blatant attempts at voter suppression in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Florida, Virginia, Texas and other states, they exacted revenge at the ballot box.
By Josh Levs, CNN
(CNN) - America woke up Wednesday, looked into a giant mirror made up of millions of votes and saw how it has been changing for decades.
It wasn't just President Obama's re-election and the diverse coalition of minorities, women and youth that kept him in power.
For the first time, voters approved same-sex marriage in three states. Margaret Hoover, a Republican analyst and CNN contributor, called it "a watershed moment." Meanwhile, Wisconsin elected the country's first openly gay U.S. senator.
Two states legalized the recreational use of marijuana.
A record 20 women will be serving in the U.S. Senate.
And a record number of new Asian-American and Latino representatives were elected to Congress.
All this would have been unthinkable a generation ago, as would the idea the country would elect, let alone re-elect, its first black president.
Tuesday's election showed that the United States is redefining what it means to be an American, some political and social observers say: The country is less conservative than popular belief suggests. It's no longer the same America. The nation has arrived at a "new normal."
Others say the election showed that America is "fractured" and even more "racially polarized" than many people believed, while some analysts caution against reading too much into any one election.
Americans may have awakened Wednesday to the same balance of power in Washington - same president, same divided Congress - but in many ways they also woke up to the sense that things outside the Beltway might never be quite the same.
The America that gave the president a second term and ushered in a string of cultural firsts was formed at a time of dramatic changes that were starting to take root just around the time Obama was born in 1961.
What defines you? Maybe it’s the shade of your skin, the place you grew up, the accent in your words, the make up of your family, the gender you were born with, the intimate relationships you chose to have or your generation? As the American identity changes we will be there to report it. In America is a venue for creative and timely sharing of news that explores who we are. Reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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