14 November 2008

At long last, Pt. 3

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.

After trying out a few promising spots --leaning against a precious tree, sitting on a curb, sitting in dirt, standing in the street, etc.-- near some of the other Jumbotrons, we ended up settling on a good spot right in front of one not too far from The Cool People's Rally.

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.
The screams when CNN projected Obama the winner were beyond deafening, driving me almost to the point of reaching for my cane to wave at the hoodlums on my lawn, but I had been prepared by this after nearly drowning in the tsunamis of sound as they projected him to win states like Pennsylvania, Ohio, Virginia, and Florida.

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 was glad to not be the only one listening carefully and respectfully to Sen. McCain's concession speech, and while I understood the initial smattering of boos at the sight of him, given how ugly and personal the race got by the end, I was reassured that they didn't catch on, and subsided as quickly as they had arose.

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.
One more part to come tomorrow, despite my plan to do it in three parts. In case you were thinking it, no, my compulsions are not strong enough to overcome my laziness in this case, so I won't be stretching this into a part 5 for cosmic balance.

* 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!


Midwest Mom said...

I hear what you're saying about the youth and diversity. Even down here amid the corn & bean fields I saw a crowd on election day. It seemed to me as though it was the first time I saw the real breadth of America represented at our polling place, and I will admit it was a heartening sight.

As for part 4... are you sure you're not writing for a soap opera? I can just hear it now, "Tune in tomorrow as Dr. Drake and Shilo McGillicutty meet again amid the cheering throng. Will they once again rediscover their undying passion?"

I can't stand soaps.


People in the Sun said...

Sounds great. I'm in the process of trying to smooth myself an inauguration ticket. Was that sentence grammatically correct? "Smooth" as a verb... How risque!

January in DC is very cold, but I kinda want the baby to have something to tell his grandchildren.

beth said...

The sentiment you heard from John McCain in the end is the real John McCain and I would say that the campaign was equally negative on both sides.

Vodka Mom said...

I was incredibly moved by John McCain's speech. I truly thought in my heart that he was a good man, (I'm an Obama girl...) and that was confirmed that night. We voted in the right man, but the other was quite magnificent in his concession, I must say.

Anonymous said...

Great account. I'm glad that you see it as important enough to chronicle this saga (and saga it is) and how you experienced it. It is fascinating to see the things that people have said on the internet and this blog and their perceptions of the historic event. Wish I were there.

LiteralDan said...

MIdwest Mom: Well thanks for spoiling tomorrow's twist that J- may or may not be her own evil twin, pregnant with my arch-enemy's love child.

People in the Sun: As they say, there's no noun that can't be verbed, so I think you're in the clear. I hope to hear all about it if you manage to smooth those tickets after all.

Also, if you hear a credible word on age guidelines for tickets, let me know, because if by some chance we do get to go, I'd like to not have to leave the kids at the hotel with the TV on next to a big pile of snacks and a sharpened stick for self-defense.

beth and Vodka Mom: I agree with you about John McCain-- it made me kind of sad to realize he was emerging at that moment from behind the horrible wall a national campaign forces people to build, trying to be all things to all people, and that he really was still under there somewhere, waiting for the madness to be over with one way or another.

It reminded me of why I was so relieved when he pulled ahead in the GOP race, as an emergency backup candidate who wasn't as bad as Guiliani and some of the others. Back then, it seemed like a win-win election, as long as we could keep the Clintons out of the White House.

There isn't much to be accomplished by me getting into how my opinions changed over the summer and fall-- right now is a time to look forward, and as positively as possible on everyone, so we can just dig ourselves out of this mess, together.

keith: Thanks-- you should go for the inauguration, since it's way closer to you anyway. I've also been interested to see pictures and hear stories about this, and I was there.

Not there like Oprah, but there enough.

American in Sydney said...

I saw Fox News (yes, sorry I had it on) say that one of the main reasons McCain lost was because of all the negative campaigning-- funny that they were reporting that when it seemed the final days before the election Fox spent acting with sheer desperation trying to again make Obama look like a psychotic Muslim, socialist, terrorist. Absolutely bizarre, I hope they learned a lesson, but I'm sure they didn't.

People in the Sun said...

I usually keep my kid in the basement with some Baby Ruth.