i brought my roommate with me to the voting station so he could see firsthand american-style democracy in action. while i went inside the elementary school gym to vote, he stood outside, filming with his video camera. nobody seemed to mind. i got into my curtained booth and got down to the business of voting. who are all these names? as i looked on the ballot filled with presidential candidates from other political parties i've never even heard of before. constitution party? with slight panic setting in, i spotted a name i did recognize: mccain/palin. hey, i know them! that's who i'll vote for! it took me a second to catch myself before i filled in the wrong oval. no! i didn't endure 2 years' worth of campaigning to choose the wrong candidate. with one disaster avoided, i was moments away from a potential second disaster. the scanning optical machine decided not to cooperate and wouldn't accept any ballots until somebody took a quick look at it and managed to get it working again. my roommate was still outside by the time i left (the whole voting process took just a few minutes, and mostly because i was fumbling with my camera inside the booth trying to get a good photo of my ballot). he asked if i could take a photo of him standing next to a man outside holding an obama sign.
walking back to the house (i thought my roommate was going to the office but he wanted to get the bicycle so he could go visit his friend after work), we bumped into my neighbor ed fixing his car. "did you go vote already?" i asked him. "no, i don't vote, it's a communist conspiracy," he told me with absolute seriousness. somehow i wasn't surprised. despite his lack of interest in the democratic progress, he was still curious as to who i voted for. "obama of course, like the rest of cambridge." "really?" he said. "he's a mulatto, ain't he?" you mean biracial, my friend. "he's a smart guy, but..." he was searching for the right word, being careful to stay political correct (we were after all in cambridge). "ah, who knows," i shrugged, and left before things could get anymore awkward.
i made an egg & bacon bagel sandwich for lunch. i spent some time researching recipes before leaving for the library to return some books and then going to the supermarket on my way back to pick up some grocery. i'm getting awfully good at not using any plastic bags but instead putting everything into my large backpack.
evening couldn't come soon enough, when polls started closing and the presidential winner would be announced for each state. at first each candidates picked up a few safe states. the crucial swing states were too close to call and most of the votes had to be tallied before any decision could be reached. i jumped between CNN, MSNBC, and NBC. despite the fact that i think john king's giant interactive map is something laughable, CNN had the cleanest graphics (at the expense of desk space as panels were asked to sit elbows to elbows behind laptop screens). MSNBC had more luxurious accommodations for their talking heads but it was mostly that, talking. NBC seemed to be the gimmickiest, with the ice rink of rockefeller place converted into an even bigger electoral map than john king could ever imagine. they also projected blue and red lights up the side of a building to show which candidate had the lead. and in the weirdest move, they had something called the virtual studio where anchors green-screened their way into a make-believe world of magical political stats. the only reason i'd turn to ABC is to watch the sultry diane sawyer. it pains me to watch CBS, the formerly perky katie couric reduced to the non-smiling duty of a serious news anchor.
not sure when i knew obama would win. CNN showed that in some of the battleground states, although the results were too close to call, if they looked at the data coming in by counties, mccain was doing worse than bush in 2004. when the networks called pennsylvania for obama, i breathed a sigh of relief. although there were still many unresolved states, the data was trending towards obama. and with pennsylvania as a win for obama, mccain would've had to win nearly all the remaining battleground states just to catch up. by the middle of the night i already knew what the networks were afraid to say live on television: that obama had won. even if mccain won the remaining "too close to call" states, the few obama states on the pacific coast would push obama over the 270 threshold. it wasn't a matter of if obama would reach 270, but rather how much more he could get beyond that number. from there it was just a matter of waiting for the polls to close on the west coast.
at exactly 11pm, NBC brought up a graphic on screen that read, "president elect barack obama," with no audio. i thought maybe it was a technical glitch, until i heard them say, "it's official - barack obama is your next new president." they cut live to chicago, where everyone was going crazy at obama's post-election rally. i don't think i was sobbing, but i did involuntarily convulse a few times and some tears came out of my eyes. i haven't been this happy since the red sox won the world series in 2004, and even then the red sox never moved me to tears like barack obama. i can't even fully articulate what a president obama means, just that suddenly the world doesn't seem so bad anymore. i think there will be a lot of happy crying tonight.
mccain gave his concession speech. i was struck by how nasty the audience became whenever mccain mentioned obama. there were numerous boos and angry indistinguishable shouting (probably for the best i couldn't understand what they were yelling). when did the republican party become the party of hate and intolerance? the party of ignorance and disrespect? the party of exclusion and disunity? in comparison, when obama gave his acceptance speech, he mentioned john mccain and his service to the country, and people in the audience cheered loudly.
this obama victory is going to live in my happy place, along with the boston red sox world series win of 2004. whenever i need to feel good, i'll just remember this day and it'll be like getting a shot of endorphins. january 20th can't come soon enough. hopefully now obama can get a good night's sleep, free from campaign duty, pleased with the knowledge that he'll be the next president of the united states.