President Barack Obama … Unbelievable

… and by a huge victory, at that.

People are chanting “Obama! Obama!”, honking their horns, pounding drums and clapping in unison outside my window in Ann Arbor tonight, and it’s 2:40 a.m. This is louder than any Michigan game and is unlike anything I’ve ever heard. Even when I discount partisanship, the tone feels so much different than the Bush wins of 2000 and 2004 — when I look at the victorious mood I saw back then, it felt that the tone of the celebrations was more, “We won and you didn’t; we proved our ideas right and defeated yours.” Yet today the nature of the happiness seems different, like a huge sense of relief that things really can be what we hoped they could be. Maybe that’s just because it’s been so many years of the other side winning, and so the left side doesn’t know how to gloat; maybe not. But it seems like the difference between a fan who watches his favorite team trounce the visitors versus a guy passing a test that he studied for and still worried he’d fail.

Even up until the last minute, I just didn’t believe Obama would win. It’s not so much that I thought America was racist, but that it was too set in its ways to make such a historic shift in such tumultuous times. People cling to the familiar, I thought. We rally round the known. Yet tonight I saw that so much of the country was so desperate to better things after eight years of the worst un-American leadership it has ever seen that it moved beyond any familiar model and was ready to listen to new ideas.

  • The old, heroic American John McCain made a reappearance tonight, just as I thought he would under winning circumstances. That he did so even while losing is a testament to Sen. John McCain. Maybe if he had stayed in his own personality earlier and avoided handing his campaign over to the worst of his party, things would have gone differently. But I don’t know that Republican circumstances could have allowed him to avoid running the campaign he did — there are too many influentials in the Republican Party who continue to bay for liberal blood even after eight years of government dominance, and getting past that obstacle to win the nomination is all but impossible. No matter what the worst of Democratic partisans say, we all saw that McCain never warmed to the ugliest of the attack-dog nastiness that was demanded of him by the party poo-bahs, and that’s why he was ultimately ineffective at it. Perhaps another scored-earth partisan like Bush or the oily Rudy Giuliani would have been able to exploit the nation’s worst attitudes enough to take down Obama, but McCain just seems incapable of that — and that’s a compliment.

    I really did feel a great sadness watching him concede tonight, because the entire nation knew that this was the end for a guy who gave his body and so many years of his life to his country. The fact that McCain never would have been able to run the campaign that he probably wanted to run is what has made me so cynical about our political system, because it chews up positive and pure ideals as the barrier for entry into the public forum. Yet watching McCain return to the Senate to ultimately fade from the scene, even with all of his failings — there’s something sad about it all.

  • What will make the victory easier to accept for the nation is that there’s no question of the winner — Obama won not only Ohio, but Florida, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Michigan, New Mexico, Colorado and potentially even Indiana and North Carolina. (As of now.) Seismic, indeed.
  • I keep my emotions in check over political events, but I almost teared up watching Jesse Jackson, Oprah and Obama’s other black supporters weeping with joy at the Grant Park rally. My grandpa who emigrated from Ireland greatly admired John F. Kennedy, and in the Irish admiration for Kennedy and the parallel black support for Obama on dispay tonight there’s something really profound: no matter how awful the things history has done to your race or your nationality, with time and human spirit it’s possible to rise above it and get to a better place. Even if it takes generations, it really can be done. To finally get to witness the end triumph is something very special indeed, and no matter your political leanings, that was special to see tonight.
  • As I looked at the McCain rally’s audience today, I wondered more than ever just how the Republican party is going to move into the demographics of the 21st century. While Grant Park was a total mishmash, I couldn’t find any non-white faces in all the Arizona crowd shots and panning shots that I saw. No matter what you consider the “real America”, when that America has to share space with demographic reality, you had better find a way to move towards positive integration.
  • Sarah Palin will be back for sure. She won’t stay the national joke many would hope she is.
  • I’d like to end on one strange political note, and to acknowledge a historical man who has indirectly led to the greatest racial advance this country has ever seen. You probably won’t guess his name.

    He is George W. Bush.

    Bush is that reviled type of historical figure who inherits a bad situation, then complicates it and makes it worse to a degree far beyond its original nature. As the worst president in American history, he has in fact done such a poor job for the nation that many of those older voters in Ohio or Virginia who would have otherwise been far too focused on Obama’s race likely said to themselves today, “Race used to be a directly negative factor in a politician, but after the incompetence this country has endured in the past eight years and how angry it has made me, I will vote for anybody the opposition party can offer who represents a break from the present situation.” Obama has a funny name, he’s not white, and he has liberal ideas, but he is something new and became a vessel for hope about a different and better future. That won him the election tonight, and strangely George W. Bush did a lot to open the door.

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6 Responses to “President Barack Obama … Unbelievable”

  1. i totally saw a black person in the mccain rally. granted it was only one — and he might very well have been a camera man — but the networks clearly looked super hard to find him.

    nice post, pat.

  2. When McCain gave his speech last night, more than once I thought, “Now THIS guy, I would have considered.” Of course I still would have voted for Obama, but more thinking would have been involved.

    Do you think the wedding invitations for Bristol and Levi will still get printed?

  3. Man, on that Bristol-Levi thing, that is an excellent question. We’ll have to wait and see; it will be a great gauge of political cynicism.

  4. Pat,
    Great post. Just a few things I have to disagree about. First, “because it chews up positive and pure ideals as the barrier for entry into the public forum” seems inaccurate to me. Obama went negative, but he maintained his positive and pure vision politically and personally. McCain made a play and lost.

    Also, Sarah Palin will be back like Dan Quayle was. Not completely gone, but not eligible for the big dance anymore. Senator from Alaska? Maybe.

    As for racism in America and the Obama vote, we all seem to have conveniently forgotten that Obama is simply NOT what most people “mean” when they say black. He is not descended from slaves. He is not from an urban area, or the rural south. He has no “urban” mannerisms or turns of phrase. I don’t mean this in a bad way, but he is about the whitest black man you could create. America still has plenty of hurdles to overcome on that front.

  5. I was very impressed by McCain’s concession speech too. I also felt a little sad for him even though I didn’t vote for him. But then I thought about his nine houses and I didn’t feel bad for him anymore!

    Posted by Omniscient1 | November 7th, 2008 at 2:14 am
  6. Pat, I differ with you about the durability of Palin’s appeal. I think Palin appeals to the sector of the population that doesn’t make any distinction between selecting a leader and selecting an American Idol. It doesn’t, or shouldn’t, matter that the president have lots of sex appeal. The choices are different, and distinct. My sense is that, if Obama has a successful (or moderately successful) presidency, Palin is history. The Republican Party cannot maintain its place a a party of the religious right and simply must move toward the center.

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