Wednesday, November 5, 2008

The "Yes We Can" Moment

Last night, my family and I and our friend The Professor ate salsa-baked goat cheese with pine nuts and watched the election returns. Talk about reality TV!

From the comfort of the living room we felt the energy from the mobs standing shoulder-to-shoulder in Soldier Field and Grant Park. Part of me wished I was there, seeing the faces and living the excitement and optimism. But my motto is "don't stand when you can sit," and my other motto is "Have a glass of wine!", so I definitely made the right choice by staying home.

As the electoral votes inched steadily toward the magic number--270--the talking heads got more anecdotal and less objective. Warner Saunders recalled seeing young Emmett Till in his open casket, his 1955 murder catalyzing the civil rights movement which opened the doors for Barack Obama's presidential bid. By the end of the evening, Allison Rosati was wiping away tears. I think Mr. Peevie was stoic, but The Professor and I were both a little verklempt.

Chicago celebs were on hand to participate in the history-making, and we snorted and ridiculed the reporter who actually said to Oprah something outrageous like, "This wouldn't have happened without you." I can't find a story about this anywhere on the web, but that was some seriously ridiculous Oprah-worship. She pooh-poohed him, and changed the subject.

(It turns out that a social scientist dude interviewed on NightLine tonight attempted to quantify the Oprah Effect. Oprah's endorsement, he concluded, added 1.15 million votes to Obama's tally, giving him the advantage over Clinton in the early primaries. That's just one guy's math--but who knows? Maybe I jumped the gun with my snort.)

As Obama was making his acceptance speech behind the walls of bullet-proof glass, I'm sure I wasn't the only one wondering: Can they protect him?

The most mysterious images of the evening were the signs held in the crowd in New York City reading, "Cassoulet" and "Cassoulet forever." Why were they holding up signs for soup? Yahoo Answers has a few ideas, but none have floated to the top as the definitive explanation.

The unhappiest outcome of this election is the increasingly bitter division between right and left. Even though John McCain gave the most gracious and eloquent concession speech I have ever heard, I wonder whether his supporters will join him in
offering our next president our good will and earnest effort to find ways to come together to find the necessary compromises to bridge our differences and help restore our prosperity, defend our security in a dangerous world, and leave our children and grandchildren a stronger, better country than we inherited.

It's going to be hard for many of them. My dad, for example, a one-issue voter who suggested to me that if Obama became president, it would be God's judgment on our country for the abortion holocaust. And my friend who told me she is feeling impending doom. I'm sure she's not alone.

I feel the opposite of impending doom. The celebrations that spontaneously erupted across the nation last night, the fact that Obama very nearly claimed a landslide, the emotions and tears of so many Americans--I am totally swept up in it all. I feel hope and optimism.

I cannot imagine what it would feel like to experience this election from inside a darker skin, from the perspective of people who have never seen a president who looked like them; who never expected to see a person of color become president in their lifetimes. I love that McCain acknowledged this hugely historical accomplishment: "This is an historic election, and I recognize the special significance it has for African-Americans and for the special pride that must be theirs tonight."

I do feel hope and optimism; but at the same time, I'm a realist. Obama is a politician, and by definition, a politician is a deal-maker, a compromiser. He can't make everyone happy. He's also human, and I'm pretty sure he doesn't walk on water--so he's going to make mistakes.

But we can be caught up in the "Yes We Can" moment, for a little while at least, can't we?

Yes, we can.


Anonymous said...

Dear blogger, to date, Obama has only won 53% of the popular vote. That's a little ambitious to say it was a near landslide, no?

E. Peevie said...

Electoral college-wise, Obama came close to a landslide, with 364 EV votes to McCain's 163. Pundits define an electoral landslide as 375 votes.

Anonymous said...

JRO: I love cassoulet. I am thrilled that Obama has been elected and am loving all of the optimism. Cassoulet and Obama Forever!