November 9th, 2012
02:57 PM ET

The New America: What the election teaches us about ourselves

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.

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Filed under: 2012 Election • Politics • Who we are
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