Around 7:00 p.m. the Cap Hill Gang (Ellen, Suezie, Aric, and me) skipped down to Victrola — where an election party was not quite in full swing, but you could see it from there. We bogarted a corner in the back, with padded benches and a couple of velvet pillows; it was out-of-the-way and we had to stand on tip-toes or crawl over tables to see the screen, but we managed. I got my view by standing on the edge of the bench and bracing myself with one knee on the cut-out that divided one side of the room from the other.
Many other folks had similar ideas.
Ellen was characteristically chill, Suezie rocked it out, and Aric kept one eye on the back door — and one hand on his iPhone.
As the states were called the tension rose, and so did the giddiness — when Pennsylvania went blue, and when Ohio followed suit, there was outright glee in every corner. There were no illusions about who the room was rooting for. People were on cell phones, calling loved ones; folks were holding up cameras, taking video. No one wanted to merely remember it — this, “Where were you when …? moment — everyone wanted to record it.
Things hovered around the 200/150 mark for awhile, and fearing that only boredom awaited him, Aric got up to use the men’s room. Thirty seconds later, Barack Obama crested 283 electoral votes and the entire establishment detonated. Aric fought his way through the crowd to return to our corner, asking, “What’s going on?”
I could barely spit it out.
I was totally losing my shit.
When McCain came on to give his concession speech, silence filled the room.
It was a good speech. It was everything I liked about him, and everything I’d been sorry to see him cast aside in his last-ditch scramble for the White House. He was reasonable, classy, and dignified. With nothing left to lose, he stood up straight again.
Once upon a time, he might’ve made an outstanding president. But when he jettisoned his principles and, in a staggering act of cynicism, made the sad gamble that one woman is just the same as any other woman — he lost more credibility than he could recover.
In our overwhelmingly blue crowd, intermittent applause broke out; and when McCain was finished speaking, the room clapped politely — even earnestly — until someone instigated a rendition of “Na na na na, hay hay hay, good bye,” which undid some of the festive goodwill I was feeling towards the hipsters down front. It was mean and unnecessary, and small. It embarrassed me. McCain was being gracious and he deserved civility, and a respectful hearing.
But soon, people were pouring out into the street.
Fireworks were going off.
Horns were honking from hill to sound.
A massive street party spontaneously formed a few blocks away.
By all reports, it was a friendly affair and even the cops looked on with smiles. I believe that Suezie ended up in the midst of this, and took pictures. I know she took pictures in Victrola, and I’ll link some of them later, if she’ll let me. (This picture lifted from Burger Eater on LJ.)
As we left, we high-fived random strangers and fist-pumped at the cars that honked wildly as they drove past. I took a moment and called my little brother. He answered the phone in near hysterics; I barely understood a thing he said, except something about “city-wide party,” “OMG OMG OMG,” “dancing in the streets,” and pretty much all the stuff that I was babbling back at him, too.
(This was his first old-enough-to-vote election, and he’s been eyeballs-deep in the Obama campaign while off at college in D.C. I have often joked that he’s saving his gay virginity for Obama, so great is the strength of his man-crush; but in all seriousness, it is a proud thing to have a teenage sibling and not even WONDER if he was going to vote.)
And now, we have history. Now I’m not remotely embarrassed to be caught in red, white, and blue; I’m delighted to be an American; I’m ecstatic to the point of tears that this time, we didn’t fuck it up. We got our act in gear. We fought like hell, refused to back down, and we made change happen in a big, big way that would have been completely unimaginable even twenty years ago.
We have elected a new president. And he’s good, and he’s smart, and he makes being smart look cool again after eight years of willful ignorance and aggressive anti-intellectualism masquerading as bullshit folksy aw-shucks-ism. I don’t know when it became a point of pride to be rigorously uninformed, but baby, the sun is setting on that day.
Mind you, I have no illusions about how hard and strange this is going to be. Obama can’t click his heels together three times and fix eight years of ass-hattery. He can’t wave a magic wand and undo the damage in Iraq; he can’t fold his arms and blink, and bring back the vigor of Wall Street. Obama can’t just wish real hard and make people buy American cars. He cannot personally, right this moment, keep all the victims of predatory lending from losing their homes; and contrary to idiotic email forwards, he can’t get his Kenyan cousins to sacrifice a goat and reverse global warming.
This man has a lot of work to do, and I swear, I wouldn’t want his job. But I thank heaven and all its denizens that he has this job. Because for eight years now, we have deserved better. And now we’ve made it happen. Not just him, and not just his campaign organizers, but US. Everyone who made phone calls, everyone who double-checked that voter registration, everyone who had a sign in the yard, everyone who debunked a stupid rumor, and everyone who waited in line.
This is our victory. This is a our president.
We’ve been well-served by those inexperienced senators from Illinois so far. Let’s take good care of this one. Let’s give him a chance.
“We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battle-field, and patriot grave, to every living heart and hearth-stone, all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”