I have now voted for the winning Presidential candidate three times in my adult life, out of eight elections total. I remember when Bill Clinton won – the first time in my voting life the rest of the country agreed with me – and the feeling of joy and relief I had that 12 years of Reagan-Bush rule was over.
I fervently hope that I will never again have to vote to replace yet another member of the Bush family.
In 2000, when the Supreme Court stole (there is no other word) the election from Al Gore, I figured W was a one-term wonder, and six months in, I was looking prescient. Enron exploded, and George Bush had the same calming effect on the country that he has displayed over the last two months, which is to say, none.
And then 9-11 happened.
The juxtaposition of skilled political fearmongering and incompetent leadership displayed by Bush and Karl Rove after that event is staggering – a perverse yin and yang of governance. And yet, in 2004, a Democratic candidate with little charisma and badly bloodied by GOP slime came within 119,000 votes of winning the Presidency. I remember going to bed when Ohio was too close to call, and waking up at 4 in the morning, turning on my television, and feeling ill. I study Hapkido (a Korean martial art), and I went to the 6AM class two hours later. Another morning regular was there, and I mentioned how I couldn’t believe we had four more years of Bush. His response, in its entirety? “I know. Fuck me.”
All this is preamble to last night. I was pretty confident going in – I was talking my Paris sister down and telling her it was OK – that the Bradley effect was not going to swing the election, that Ohio had a Democratic Governor and Secretary of State (wasn’t that a refreshing change this year), that Obama’s organization was exceptional. Even so, yesterday proceeded with gut-gnawing slowness. Virginia took waaay too long to call (longer than Ohio!). For so much of the early evening, it was to 2004 pattern. Pennsylvania fell – did I trust that the Western trio of Nevada, New Mexico, and Colorado were set to put Obama over the top?
And then Ohio dropped, and I got lighter.
I hope I will be forgiven a touch of hyperbole when I say that it’s hard to imagine a more inspiring back-to-back of political addresses than McCain’s concession and Obama’s victory speech.
And so we enter a new era. Beyond the myriad policy reasons why I am ecstatic that Barack Obama is my President-elect; beyond the incredible relief I feel that John McCain, whatever his past heroism, will not practice his gambler’s mentality on the machinery of the U.S. Government; beyond my happiness that the American people responded to a candidate’s progressive agenda; and beyond my pride that the United States of America elected a black man of mixed heritage to be President of this great country, I am most looking forward to one thing most of all: a President who treats me like an adult.
No longer will the White House be a bully pulpit for ignorance.
That will be, in many ways, the most profound and immediate change come January 20th. Here’s hoping that of all the tolerance and acceptance that Barack Obama’s election signifies, that his years in office make the fear-based and us-against-them governance unacceptable to a whole generation of Americans. That would be a victory for the ages.