Gay voters remained loyal to Obama four years after “hope and change” was the mantra. | MICHAEL SHIREY
Standing outside of Pieces, a gay bar near the intersection of Christopher Street and Greenwich Avenue, David, 47, and his friend Chris, 56, were smoking and chatting on election night. The two Obama supporters were anticipating a long night.
“I think everybody’s expecting it to be so close,” David said after noting he would soon be leaving the bar for home and dinner. Chris said he would also head home and would likely fall asleep watching the returns. Neither man expected to know the election results before morning.
“I was very proud of Obama’s record of achievement,” Chris said, adding that he waited in line for two hours to vote for the Democratic president. “I thought he was dealt a very bad hand by Bush II… I thought he did quite well given the contentious legislature he is dealing with.”
They could have stayed at Pieces for three more hours and watched the returns come in because by 11:15 on November 6, Barack Obama had effectively won a second term as president of the United States.
The Obama campaign built a coalition of African Americans, Latinos, Asians, women, younger voters, and some white voters to win well over the 270 electoral votes needed to take the White House. Five percent of the estimated 117 million 2012 voters were gay, lesbian, or bisexual and 76 percent of those voters backed Obama over Republican Mitt Romney.
In contrast to 2008, when gay New Yorkers packed bars and clubs, the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Community Center, and other venues to watch election results, the city was muted. Still recovering from Hurricane Sandy and expecting another storm on November 7, the streets were quiet, though voters did stand in line for hours. There was some partying.
“There were people actually blowing horns like it was New Year’s Eve,” said Allen Roskoff, president of the Jim Owles Liberal Democratic Club, a gay political club. “There were people screaming in the streets and being joyous just like New Year’s.”
For some, the hurricane and the election went hand in hand.
“It made the voting incredibly relevant and critically relevant,” said Carlos Menchaca, a co-president of the Lambda Independent Democrats, a Brooklyn gay political club. Menchaca was in Red Hook, a Brooklyn neighborhood that was flooded by Hurricane Sandy, helping with recovery efforts.
“It really shifted toward the future,” he said. “We’re not just talking about partisan bullshit. We were talking about rebuilding communities and then we were doing that with the vote.”
There was dancing in the streets in Chicago and San Francisco on Election Night. But some voters may have confronted the reality of the past four years and the limits of what any president can do with a wrecked economy. After winning the White House in 2008, Obama warned Americans that recovering would not be quick or easy.
“The road ahead will be long, our climb will be steep,” Obama said on Election Night four years ago. “We may not get there in one year or even one term, but America, I have never been more hopeful than I am tonight that we will get there. I promise you, we as a people will get there.”
At the Gym Sportsbar in Chelsea, at least one gay New Yorker was not feeling that.
“Obama hasn’t delivered,” said Luis, 31, as he stood on Eighth Avenue smoking with two friends. “I was disappointed.”
Luis did not vote, but if he had, he would have voted for Romney though with some ambivalence.
“I didn’t feel like either candidate was appropriate,” Luis said. “In this election, the middle class does not have a voice.”
One of his friends, John, 26, burst out of the bar clearly annoyed with the crowd inside that was overwhelmingly made up of Democratic partisans. With CNN blaring from several TVs around the bar, those inside cheered every time the news station announced another bit of good news for any Democratic candidate.
John voted for Romney. Like Luis, he was a little drunk. He complained about the Americans who were not working.
“I’m so tired of working my ass off for people who don’t want to work,” he said. “Literally, we’re feeding them… It’s not fair.”
President Barack Obama declares victory at Chicago's McCormick Place shortly after midnight on November 7. | CHIP SOMODEVILLA/ GETTY IMAGES