Did I dream it or did what I see really just happen?
The citizens of the United States not only elected the first
African-American president, but Barack Obama's race seemed only a peripheral issue
at best. This nation just decided to return to excellence and voted for the most capable candidate. The old smear-and-
fear politics did not work this time, young voters came out in record numbers, people withstood multiple-hour waits to cast their votes, and there was jubilation in the streets of major cities in this country and all over the world. I must be dreaming.
We had the political equivalent of a Super Bowl party at my house. My friend Dave the Dog drove in from Nashville, as he did in 1992 for the Clinton election; Larry took his customary spot; Melody put out hors d'oeuvres; and I held my breath until 10. Even when Pennsylvania went to Obama, I had seen too many voodoo elections to get comfortable. When the West was declared blue, we jumped up and down and yelled and cried.
The spectacle in Chicago's Grant Park was breathtaking. The symbolism of Obama's historic run kept grabbing me: He began his campaign in Illinois on the courthouse steps where Lincoln stood, and he ended it in Manassas, Virginia, where the documents ending the Civil War were signed. Then he held his victory celebration in the very spot where young anti-war demonstrators were beaten and maced at the Democratic convention 40 years ago. The tears of the greying eminence, Jesse Jackson, spoke more eloquently to the moment than any words. Every citizen, regardless of party, should take a measure of pride in this fulfillment of America's promise.
John McCain ended his quest on an honorable note, with a more than gracious concession speech, which I'm certain reminded more people than me of the genuine man he used to be — before he handed his campaign over to the former Bush/Rove operatives, just to let them screw up one last thing before they leave town.
In half the McCain rallies I saw, I thought he was doing a Walter Brennan, "Grandpappy Amos" impression. "Hehhh?" Dirty tricks backfired on Elizabeth "Sugar Lips" Dole as well, and MSNBC reported that for the first time since 1952 a Bush or a Dole will not be on Capitol Hill. Just a little icing.
To see Obama win North Carolina, Indiana, and especially Virginia, where Robert E. Lee is still worshipped and revered, was simply astounding. I believe this election gave birth to a new electorate, one that picked the right man for these perilous times.
Even in my little blue corner of this solid red state, people have seemed nicer the last couple of days. I detect a general feeling of "things will be better now." But now the real work begins. Bush/McCain voters will find that Democrats are more gracious in victory than the Republicans could ever imagine, so there will no purges (save, I hope, for Israel's favorite senator, Joe Lieberman, who has it coming) or "revolutions" like the GOP Congress attempted in 1994. I only ask of Republicans the same civility and neutrality that I tried to adopt when George Bush was first elected — before he lied this nation into the invasion and occupation of Iraq. Before the Limbaughs of this world attempt to dismember Obama, I hope the new president will be given the chance to implement his programs without the same whiplash resistance we have seen in the past.
My initial election-night joy was sobered by Obama's magnificent speech citing the magnitude of the problems we face as a nation. The emotion that best describes his entire ordeal for me is relief. Obama referenced both Dr. Martin Luther King and Sam Cooke but broadened the context. I'm happy to be alive to witness the ascension of an African American to this nations' highest office, but I was so uncertain that it could really happen that I continued to see the dark cloud behind the silver lining. When the moment actually arrived, I thought of a lot of people who would have loved to see this day. Now, I feel as if I'm undergoing whatever is the male equivalent of postpartum depression. We did this improbable thing, so now what? I trust this good man and his advisers to chart a new course for the nation, but I don't trust a recalcitrant congressional minority whose purpose is to thwart and block the new president's agenda.
Obama's victory must also be seen in the light of the 46 percent of the public who voted for McCain. They had their reasons, but in light of the brutal recriminations directed at Sarah Palin from the McCain camp, I believe we dodged a bullet. And it is troubling that otherwise rational people would even consider placing the government in the control of this cartoonish and inept person. Almost half the country bought her bullshit.
It was proven in this week's Newsweek that Palin is definitely not smarter than a fifth-grader and was ignorant about even the most commonplace facts of geography. Worse, she took an arrogant pride in her ignorance and "Wasilla Main Street values." If the right-wing evangelicals want to make her into the future of the GOP, I say, "bring 'em on." Meanwhile, we have a very capable man about to assume the office of president, who was put there by the most committed group of voters I have ever seen. So, I say, "God bless us, every one" — and please diligently protect the Obamas.
Randy Haspel writes the blog bornagainhippies.com, where this first appeared.