One of the messages on Warren Ellis's website yesterday was a stern message to Americans to not fuck up this election. And in the most important ways that count, they didn't fuck it up. They did great.
Not to say there weren't fuck ups, of course. This is America. And this is an election. So there are things that happened that still make me shake my head. But more on that in a few minutes.
I didn't write about the election last night for any number of reasons. A portion of the evening was spent moving boxes upstairs to the new place. Then there was the swimming lesson that Cathy insisted I go to (good news - I still haven't drowned and appear to be making progress. Bad news - I still have water in my right ear as write this and it's driving me mad). But also, I just wanted to absorb history. I've followed pretty much ever US presidential election since 1992 and hell I have pretty clear memories of the ones in '88 and '84. But there has been no election, US or Canadian, that I have followed with this level of devotion. And on this night, I just wanted to absorb it.
One were some of the things that I noticed?
1. That everything appeared to run smoothly and with minimal amounts of drama. Oh sure, there were flare-up and long lines, but nothing like the catastrophes of '00. Voter turnout looks like it was around 62 per cent, which for the United States is nothing short of amazing.
2. The absolute rapture on people's faces when Obama was simultaneous declared the winner by all networks at 11 pm. The pure shock and joy that it actually happened was a beautiful thing to watch.
3. That even harden, cynical commentators, some of them of Republican bent, were genuinely moved...not only by what they were watching on the screens, but also the realization of what had just happened.
4. Pardon the smallness, but the vast amusement at watching hundreds, if not thousands, of people at the White House chanting and screaming Obama's name. I swear to God, I think if they could have gotten in there and pulled Bush out of the building, they would have. I suspect the Secret Service was probably tempted to let them.
5. Obama's acceptance speech. It was an odd moment, really. He looked almost out of sorts. I suspect Obama is still deeply traumatized at the loss of his grandmother. Plus there's always the shock that after 22 months on the campaign trail that it's over. Oh yes, and the history of the moment. To become the first black president of the United States. One commentator said that America's Civil War had finally ended. A bit of over-dramatization there, to be sure, but it does give some sense of the scope of the moment.
To have to stand up in front of more than 100,000 people, with tens of millions more watching at home, and to give a victory speech....I can't even begin to imagine the emotions running through him. But it was still a good speech, with lots of the soaring rhetoric that Obama is known for, but also weighted heavily with the challenges that need to be faced. Not a classic, but still a pretty good one.
It was a good night. It was a nice reminder of why so many people pay attention to the United States. That when it's at its best - as it was most of last night - it's the greatest country in the world. And then when it's at its worst - as it has been for much of the last eight years - why it's such a tremendous source of disappointment and frustration.
There are going to be disappointments and frustrations over the next four, possibly eight, years. I have no doubt. The expectations for President-elect Obama are beyond the ability of any mortal man to deliver. But surely God after eight years in the wilderness of incompetence, maliciousness and I genuinely wonder if not a touch of evil, he can only lead America back up.
6. It's not all over and done with yet, but it appears I came close to the electoral college vote, if not exactly the way I had anticipated. North Dakota screwed me over (I thought Montana might get me those three electoral votes back, but no, they screwed me to). Indiana swung, much to my shock, to the Democrats. And while he's only up by 6,000 votes, it appears McCain held Missouri. North Carolina is close as well, but Obama looks like he will hold it.
And depending on whether or not one of Nebraska's congressional ridings swing Democrat, it appears likely Obama will finish with around 364 or 365 electoral votes. I said 367. So not bad. I'll have to submit my resume to CNN and see if I can get one of those fancy talking head jobs. Or perhaps show up as a hologram from time to time (I didn't see every trick the networks broke out for the election, but honest to god, the holographic reporter had to be the most retarded.)
I said last night was mostly of an example of America's brilliance. But there were still enough moments to remind you how America managed to get to this place.
1. It seems likely that Proposition 8 in California will pass, which will ban same sex marriage. Similar propositions passed in other states, but for it to pass (as of this writing, all the polls aren't in, but it's not looking good) in California is especially disappointing. If you're in love and you want to marry your partner, you should be able to - as simple as that. No matter if it's a man and woman, two men or two women. It's also disappointing that the demographic that appeared to sink the Proposition were blacks, who voted two-thirds against it.
2. While McCain's concession speech was gracious and classy, a lot of the people who showed up there weren't. There were hardy boos and jeers many times when Obama's name was mentioned. And while I'm sure there were boos for McCain at Obama's acceptance, they didn't seem quite so...mean. It's just a reminder that while this is a great victory, 45 per cent of the United States didn't vote for Obama and many genuinely despise him. There were a lot of angry and confused faces in that crowd.
3. The senate race continues to be deeply weird. And I don't even care much about Minnesota, as Coleman seems at least like a relatively moderate Republican as compared to Franken's almost zealous Democratic nature that I think would be a problem in the long run. Nor do I care as much about Oregon, where the Republican out there actively campaigned about working with Obama.
If the Republicans are to rebuild as a sensible political party of fiscal conservatives and social moderates, and one not run by its zealous religious base, it's going to need people like this.
But for the vile Saxby Chambliss to probably win (he needs 50 per cent of the vote or there will be a run-off election. At this writing he's at 50.3 per cent with about 500,000 votes to be counted) and, even more disturbing, the big "fuck you America" of Alaskan senator Ted Stevens looking likely to win despite being found guilty of multiple counts of corruption is disheartening.
Ah well. It's not a perfect union yet. There's still a lot of work to do. But last night was at least a step in the right direction.
1. The needle and the damage done - Neil Young
2. Lily Bolero/The white cockade (live) - The Chieftains
3. Bank job - Barenaked Ladies* (sorry Laura. Does this cost me more cool points?)
4. Dead end - Sam Roberts
5. Home I'll never be - Tom Waits