Grant Park is swarming with thousands, flashes going off like the proverbial thousand points of light, a diamond sea. Outside in the streets of DC, block parties are starting all over, including one outside the White House.
“America if you ever doubted that anything was possible here … the answer has been spoken by rich and poor, young and old, black and white … we are and always will be the United States of America.”
Here in the newsroom three TVs are playing this on different time delays, turning it into an echo chamber, a prism of oratory.
At 11pm in Chicago on the 4th November 2008, Barack Obama claimed the Presidency of the United States of America.
Half an hour earlier, there had been a more subdued appearance in Phoenix.
“My friends no no…” it was those hands again, the gesture. John McCain was conceding and congratulating Barack Obama and those assembled on the lawn of the Phoenix Biltmore Hotel were booing.
It was disappointment speaking, but it was on the edge of ugly.
“My friends…” and the best he got out of them for the most part was a sullen silence.
He spoke of the ugliness that ha disfigured the country and how it had denied a section of its own people the opportunities to be American.
Still not much. Tepid applause.
He spoke of Obama’s grandmother who had died the day before and talked of how both he and Obama believed she had returned to her creator.
That seemed to get some sort of fellow feeling aroused, but it was hard yards.
Back in Chicago a half hour later, Barack Obama went through the thankyous — Biden, Michelle, campaign heads Davids Plouffe and Axelrod, and then into the general campaign:
“This campaign was built in the backyards and living rooms, in the ten dollar donations, in millions of people refusing to believe…”
“We know the challenges to come, to live up to the best of this country … we may not get there in the first year, or the first term, but I promise you we as a people will get there.”
He refers back to Lincoln, the other Illinois politician who came to the White House: our differences must strain but never break, the bonds that hold us together
He goes into the story of a 106 year old woman, Anne Nixon Cooper, through all the people who told her we couldn’t, yes we can.
This is the old Obama of the primaries, the prophet, getting the audience calling back, “yes we can”.
The newscrew set up in front of me waiting to do a live cross after the speech are clearing their throats, trying to look professional as they choke up … just something in my eye…
‘We will respond to all those who say we can’t solve the problems of the world, we say, yes we can. God Bless America and etc and then he was engulfed in cheering.
In Phoenix, not so much. Even on the TV you could feel a lingering air of bitterness. Still, you have to some sympathy. Obama’s lead in the popular vote is currently three million out a hundred million votes cast. When the west coast comes in that may extend to five million, but it’s not like an ovewhelming will of the people thing.
Nevertheless President Obama will have a pliant House and Senate, and any sense that he won’t remake the US in a liberal image will depend on the genuineness of his promise that there ill be nor red and blue state america. I suspect in that he will pleasantly surprise his enemies and disappoint his liberal supporters.
The provisional result would appear to be Obama 334 EC votes, McCain 157. There’s been a five seat Senate pickup so far, with another three possible, which would be close to the filibuster bust. So far there’s been a 13 seat pickup in the House, with another five in the offing.
In Colorado, proposition 48 — personhood beginning at conception — was defeated 75 to 25.
But proposition 8 — banning gay marriage in California — is leading 56 to 44, though with a low vote count.
That’s it for the moment. I am now going to join the crowds outside the White House, to dissolve for an hour or so into History. Whatever and whenever it will be necessary to challenge the Obama Doctrine in the years that lie ahead, whatever the sense of symbolism and identity politics, this victory was built on millions of small donations, on tens of millions of foot miles, of leaflets, of meetings, of privilege and assumption surrounded and subjected by possibility. Whatever is to come may subtract from this moment, but can never dissolve it. Not even close.
Ya es da dia.