Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Epilogue to an Election

Eight years ago, I vowed to stay up all night, watching the election returns, determined, for once in my life, to witness the networks declare a president-elect. I had just finished my student teaching, and didn't have to go into work the day after Election Day, so I decided to stay up for as long as I could.

Well, we all remember what happened.

I woke up the next morning, asked Mama Cat who the next president was, and she told me there wasn't any. I turned on CNN and heard the story, again and again, about the whole fiasco that was unfolding in Florida. Sister Kitten, a college senior at the time, called from Ithaca and asked what the hell was going on.

In 2004, I just wasn't motivated to stay up. I cannot remember the last time I felt so indifferent towards an election, a fact that I am embarrassed and ashamed to admit now. I felt the way many Americans did: I voted for John Kerry, if only to get W. out of office.

This year, however, I was very excited about Obama. Here was this young, charismatic individual, a fast-rising star on the political scene, who had this gift of rallying people around him. I liked his articulation, I liked the way he spoke, I liked the way he related to people, especially the youth. I really liked the way he got young people, the next generation, excited about the political process.

Now I am no political analyst. There are so many "what ifs" still out there. What if things were really going well for the Republican party right now? What if there was a huge October surprise on the eve of Election Day? Several months ago, the election was too close to call. Both McCain and Obama were in a dead heat in many states, and I kept thinking, as I read whatever I could about the election, "Another 2000. Another 2000."

I had those anxious fears that something--anything--would go wrong last night. I was expecting to go to sleep once the Starbucks wore off (thanks for the two free cups of coffee I received at two different stores). I watched the returns nonstop on CNN all night long, with my calculator, figuring out possible Electoral College scenarios. (By the way, how the hell did I miss the holograms?)

In short, with all signs pointing towards Obama, I was expecting McCain to pull an upset.

And then 11:00 PM rolled around.

Wolf Blitzer had a countdown graphic on the Magic Map. Countdown before the polls closed on the west coast. Five, four, three, two...

CNN Projection...

And then...


I started to scream. I kept saying "Ohmigod" for almost half an hour. I was literally breathless.

I went online immediately and started looking for blogs. I was amazed that none of the news websites, particularly CNN and the New York Times, crashed due to the onslaught of traffic. I called my minister in a frenzy; we were both outspoken Obama supporters.

The adrenaline kept me up till 1 AM. I couldn't believe what I was seeing. Not just the fact that I was witness to a new president being elected, but the fact that we elected an African-American as president.

This fact wasn't lost on Roland Martin, who was very emotional over Obama's win. He mentioned that next year, the NAACP will celebrate its centennial. It was founded in 1909 as the result of a racial riot that took place in Springfield, Illinois.

Springfield, Illinois.

The same city where Barack Obama announced his candidacy.

I was blogging last night when I overheard McCain on the TV. I ran back into the living room. Now, I don't agree on much of McCain's politics, but after his concession speech, I have increased respect for the man. He delivered a classy, dignified, gracious concession, and you could tell that he sincerely wished his opponent well. Yes, he was disappointed, but he wasn't bitter about his loss.

And Obama, too, extended an olive branch to McCain after a long, often bitter, campaign.

I will never forget the acceptance speech in Grant Park. Obama was serious, dignified, overwhelmed at times, that he won. He recognized that there was a long road ahead. He knew that there were a lot of problems ahead. And he was humble enough to say, "I need your help."

Yes, we could.

Yes, we did.

This morning, I had more time to reflect. What if McCain had won? Would there have been some racial rioting in the streets in various cities? How would the world have reacted? There was nothing short of adoration and jubiliation all around the world.

I'm overwhelmed, physically and emotionally, but psyched that I have lived through this momentous time in American history. I got home early enough to take a nap, and I did, for three hours.

And now, an early bedtime.

Now the withdrawl period begins.

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