This, Part 3 of my requested account of our experience at the election day Obama rally in Grant Park, ended up being so long that I've mercifully split off a part 4 to run tomorrow (here are part 1 and part 2). Sorry to those who've had no interest in reading such a thing-- I'll be back to my usual antics on Monday.
This spot provided us more than enough personal space, including the ability to sit down in the grass(!), and an excellent view* of a cameraman's view of history in action. And take note that when I think of the importance of this election, it's not much to do with Obama's race, but rather the involvement of young voters (and even those not yet old enough to vote) and the generally constructive passion involved on both sides.
A lot has been said about the racial makeup of Obama supporters, at least among under-30 supporters, so I don't have much to add in noting the diversity of the people around me, and how reassuring it was to see everyone united.
One older (70s?) couple was so excited early in the evening that not only did the man offer their guest bedroom to a young male German tourist he hadn't met, but he also happily took hold of J-'s waist and moved her over bodily after insisting she could stand in front of him to get a better sightline of the distant Jumbotron (this was shortly before she was mysteriously overcome and had to retreat). As creepy as this might be normally, it somehow wasn't so much so that night, especially since she really did have a way better view from there.
Several of you have made comments expressing terror at the idea of being surrounded by this (likely underestimated) 240,000-person crowd, and while I can understand that when I remember trying to force ourselves closer and closer to the front when we first got there, the rest of the time we spent moving from point to point, having plenty of space to breathe. This is a very large park, and the borders of the unofficial rally were quite porous, so there was plenty of room for even more people, had they not been dissuaded by the mayor's bold projections of a million people showing up.
Call me a curmudgeon, or more accurately, someone who remembers very distinctly the last two elections, but Wolf Blitzer telling me on election night that he thinks something will happen carries only slightly more weight than when he said the same kind of thing 6 months ago. With all the (clearly predictable) troubles with democracy-threatening electronic voting machines, I was ready to believe anything could happen, and I didn't want to jinx my outcome of choice by feeling too relaxed or confident until I at least saw a concession speech.
So as a result, I was one stone face surrounded by many thousands of people starting the party without me. But then, I'm not sure what I would have done if I had been on the same wavelength, because I've never been particularly demonstrative in public, so the world probably would have seen the same impassive face drifting through the background that CNN chose not to air, for some reason (I taped 9 hours of their coverage and didn't see myself in any of it).
I know I'm not the only person to express the idea that if THAT John McCain had been out there on the campaign trail (and in the meeting where they picked his running mate), this race might have been much closer, a marked "downside" almost nonexistent, and the resulting presidency (whoever had won) less potentially violent and poisonous. We don't need to continue the zero-sum game that politics, and thus everyday life, has become in this century-- I hope those disappointed in the outcome can focus on the language and sentiments of the John McCain who spoke on that final night rather than the John McCain (and certainly the Sarah Palin), who spoke out on the campaign trail since the convention.
* This view was definitely hard-won, after I led a generally polite rebellion of our section against two unrepentantly selfish ladies standing up a few feet in front of the TV at the expense of at least a hundred or so people seated in the grass directly behind them. Democracy in action!