Wednesday, November 05, 2008

and finally...

A wrap from the Hilltop the afternoon after that beautiful moment just after 11pm when the election was decided, once and for all time.

Tuesday seemed to go on forever, particularly after the 6-10am flood of voters in my precinct. We maxed out at a wait of about 1 hour and 15 minutes during that time and it receded to no line for the remainder of the day. When looking at the absentee / early voter list, which included about 15% of my precinct's voters, we realized that by 10am the deed was done – there was no massive pile of voters left to descent upon us later in the day. I’d say that 99% of the voters were in grand spirits and happy enough to get to the booths in a fairly reasonable amount of time. There were dozens of get out the vote, freedom of vote, and voting rights members outside the polling place and everyone got along swimmingly. The new building manager at my polling center was fabulous – he supplied coffee and water to voters all day long, got us fans and A/C units when it got hot, and welcomed voters with balloons and kind words throughout the long day. The entire day was much more exciting and different from the normal Election Day drag, and that’s always a good thing.

The result? The Eleven was on the couch and watching PBS reporting on the returns and speeches into the late hours. We heard about Ohio coming in as we drove home from the elections office – soon followed by Pennsylvania and then Virginia (!!!) being declared after we made it home. Shortly after 11pm EST, California was called and it was over…finally. Florida came home later with Iowa and Nevada in tow. The scenes in Grant Park as our elected President arrived on the stage were stunning. His speech couldn’t have been better, more generous, more humble, or more welcoming to all of America. I sensed that he felt a massive weight had been lifted from his shoulders – it was over. Deep down I think even he was amazed that after two years of campaigning, and four years since he burst on the scene, he was finally standing before 100,000 people as President of the United States. I had tears in my eyes. As the camera panned the crowd we caught glimpses of Jesse Jackson; I could almost feel, seeing his stoic face during the speech, that maybe he felt as if he was watching what he believed was his calling and that it had passed unfulfilled. Maybe some envy. By the end, as the Obama and Biden families took the stage, we had a last glance at Jackson. Regardless of your feelings about Jesse Jackson’s politics, successes and failures, that picture – of Jackson with tears streaming down his face – was the symbolic moment of the night. He laid a lot of the groundwork for Obama’s rise and there he stood, in his city, finally seeing the fulfillment of a dream he’s carried for over forty years.

I disagree with a lot of the pundits when they put forth the idea that it was the economic crises of the last two months that put Obama over the top. The reason I’ve been so passionate about him is simple: he’s a leader. Beyond that, everything else falls away. He inherits a morally bankrupt country: not people, country. We’ve allow ourselves to stand idly on the sideline while our Constitution, civil liberties, and dreams have been crushed by an Administration that is guilty of violating American law, International law, and committing war crimes. The remedy to that misery is the ideal that we are so much better than what we’ve allowed to happen over the last eight years. Christine and I decided – driven by fear of standing by on the sidelines – that we needed to get out and walk the streets to do our part in bringing about that change and leadership. If you've follow Obama at all then you know that as he delves into the morass left behind he’ll inquire, study, assess, and then decide upon a course of action that serves as many as possible. None of us will agree with everything he pushes to the Congress. But what we do know is that we now have a thoughtful, inquisitive, curious, stable, and dedicated leader. Those are characteristics that went extinct over the last eight years. Obama is our next President because people craved leadership that defines us, not leaders that desert us.

And so it is.


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