5 thoughts as Election Night ends

11/05/2008 3:37 am
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Election night thoughts, both serious and less serious, while they're still being formed in my mind. (a definitively non-exhaustive list by the way):

(It's just moments after Obama's acceptance speech as I'm beginning to write this.)

1. Congratulations to President-Elect Obama and Vice President-Elect Biden.

2. Both candidates (McCain and Obama) gave quite good speeches tonight. It's because of the moment, no doubt, but the speeches after the votes are cast usually seem to be better than during the campaign.

3. Race can be a tricky subject to talk about, especially on the internet, and certainly too significant for one small post, but bear with me if you will. After Obama was projected to go over 270, a lot of the discussion turned to how he will now be our first African American President. And rightly so. It is a big story. I remember when he became the projected Democratic nominee. The discussion about the significance of that achievement was talked about then too. And again rightly so. I remember back then, though, how it almost caught me off guard. Like, "oh, yeah there is that aspect to this, isn't there?" Not because I was unaware of the significance of it, but because, in a sense, I think I, along with most of our generation and many others of different generations, regarded his race as something that, for lack of a better phrase, is in the background, if you will. Certainly significant in that it is part of him, but not in the sense that it has shaped our view of him to the point that we couldn't see him for all the other things that he is. A biographical trait, but not one that overshadows the rest of his identity.
I bring this up because I feel like maybe, one part of the greatness and significance of this story -- of a minority candidate winning the presidential election -- is that the issue of that candidate's race was not greatly significant to so many people. To put it more colloquially: maybe part of the story is that it was largely a non-story.

(Does this make sense to anyone? If not, say so, and maybe I can try to clarify.)

But to be clear, I did say that is PART of the story. All that said, another part is what a huge story it is, and how it should be recognized as such. I'm not eloquent enough to speak to its entire significance; I'm not sure any one person is. So mostly I'll let others speak to that point. But I will say this: One of the more striking moments of this night was hearing the words and seeing the tears of so many people for whom this night may have seemed a bit beyond belief, especially given the things they have lived through. Many of them were minorities, some not, some have experienced racial struggles firsthand, some have witnessed struggles from more of a distance, some young, some a little older. But whatever the case, it was clear this was deeply moving for so many Americans, and I think that all Americans would probably benefit by taking a moment to recognize this and reflect on it.


4. This point actually flows from the previous one, so sorry if it's too redundant. Among all the talk of what a great historical moment it is for a minority to be elected, I felt a bit of discomfort with what was being said. Not because the words were incorrect or improper for the moment. But because in the moment of celebration of the achievement, it was naturally mentioned how America had achieved something great. Which, again, is true, but I think if left at that, the message can come across a bit unclear. And I'll explain why. When people talk of how great the American people performed or how great we've shown ourselves as a country to be by voting in a minority candidate, it comes across with these dangling unspoken questions that we as listeners are left with. "If Obama didn't win, would our country have shown itself to be less great?" "Does that mean that if I voted McCain that I wasn't part of this momentous moment? -- That mine was a vote against such racial and cultural progress?"
Don't misunderstand me. This isn't accusatory. I don't think all people, or even most people, lauding this outcome as a great moment are at the same time implying a non-Obama vote is negative in that sort of way. (at least I'd hope it's not many. If we've learned anything through politics, it's that almost any view usually has some supporters. Even so, I'd like to think it's not a big percentage who feel that way in this case. In the end, I can't know everyone's intent. But I'll give the benefit of the doubt before assuming someone is implying that. Of course, I was a bit bothered when one person on tv seemed to attribute boos by mccain supporters to an attitude of intolerance. But I'll give him the benefit of the doubt and assume I misunderstood the situation or his point.)
Anyway, intended or not, I think those questions, or questions like them, are a real thing that trouble honest people. Real, or just perceived, many McCain supporters felt that type of attitude was out there before the election, and I imagine the feelings will surface again.

So, since I haven't heard it addressed on tv yet, I'll address it here:

The greatness of this election isn't fully captured in the fact that Barack Obama won. Nor in the fact that people voted for him. Those things are pointed to as great things because they are tangible moments that point to a larger progress. But another aspect of that progress, and another part of our nation's greatness, came every time someone stepped into a voting booth and voted for the candidate that they chose based on things like political ideas and character traits and without regard to the skin color of that candidate. If you voted for McCain, or Barr, or Nader because you felt that person was the best candidate, and if you would have voted for that person if he held the same views but had a different color skin, then that was a great vote that you cast. No less a great vote than any vote for Obama was.
So take heart, non-racist people who happened to not vote for Obama. Though you may not hear it from anyone on tv or maybe anywhere else, you too are a positive part of this great moment in American history. And really, just as I said previously, I think all Americans would probably benefit by taking a moment to recognize this also, and reflect on it as well.

OK, enough on that subject. To my fifth thought!

5. Joe Biden. This guy could have been anyone right? I mean I don't think it's too terribly different from other vp candidates, but could Joe Biden be more "along for the ride"? Nothing against the guy, but I'm watching Obama, this magnetic personality who's just ridden this wave of popularity to an election victory, and he just got done with this historic speech and then Biden joins him on stage and I'm thinking, man, who couldn't have Obama picked? Granted, the vp choice is rarely the focal point, but I have this feeling, and I have no data to back this up, that Obama to a greater extent than anyone in the last three elections was really the only part of his ticket that people cared about. Strangely enough, Sarah Palin probably set all-time records for the amount of interest a vp candidate garnered, but that's not really the topic at hand. I'm trying to think of the sports equivalent to Joe Biden. At first I thought about someone on the Bulls in the 90s, but I'm not sure there's a really good example. Basketball might not be the sport to go with. Right now I'm thinking Doug Mientkiewicz. 2004 Doug. Late addition to the Red Sox. Caught the final out for the World Series title, but really, it wasn't about Doug. He was mostly along for the ride. I fully expect Biden to grab the microphone from tonight's speech and refuse to give it up, even if the Smithsonian asks for it.
scott.jpgScott - Resident Tech Support
11/05/2008 @ 07:42:39 AM
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What's strange about the exit poll results is that Obama carried the "Over $200,000 per year" crowd 52%-46%. In other words, the group that he pretty much guaranteed would have their taxes raised voted for him anyway.
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jeremy.jpgJeremy - 8953 Posts
11/05/2008 @ 09:40:13 AM
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My feelings regarding race and this election pretty much mirror yours. As the election wound down many black comedians were doing jokes about how it's cute Obama actually thinks getting more votes then the other guy will matter. It was very moving to see how moved and relieved black people were after the election was called. Though I don't like him much it was very powerful to see Jesse Jackson crying with a look that almost seemed like disbelief.

As you said, perhaps the biggest story here is the lack of a story. Maybe people were overplaying the role race currently plays in a vast majority of americans' minds. When polled 30% of the people who said race was a factor voted for Obama anyway. (Though, it wasn't stated, or really implied, that they polled only white people, so this number could conceivably contain black people who voted for Obama just because he was black.)

I do think there's a certain amount of confirmation bias when it comes to racism. I also understand that I have no idea what it's like to be black, and the relief on their faces last night was very moving.

In short perhaps the real story was that to the American people they were all just bobbleheads. (Always end on an inside joke 1 other person will get)

The speeches were indeed great speeches, though it's worth noting that the concession speeches always seem equally as gracious, perhaps because we're used to the rest of our sore-loser/I'll-get-you-next-time culture.

Joe Biden couldn't have been more along for the ride. I'm sure he's a smart guy and everything, but I hope he gets that this was about Obama. He really probably hurt more than he helped with his "Obama will be tested" comments.
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flower .jpgPackOne - At the Dollhouse in Ft. Lauderdale.
11/05/2008 @ 04:31:42 PM
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History.
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jon.jpgJon - infinity + 1 posts
11/06/2008 @ 04:28:36 AM
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Jeremy Wrote - Yesterday @ 09:40:13 AM
In short perhaps the real story was that to the American people they were all just bobbleheads. (Always end on an inside joke 1 other person will get)


I was going to include that in my post but I decided against it or else forgot. It really is the most succinct way to put it though.
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wendy.gifWendy
11/06/2008 @ 05:38:32 PM
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I think it's also significant that Obama didn't just win in the "blue states", or the battleground states - he also won in Virginia and North Carolina (just called a few hours ago) - where there happen to be a lot of older people who do think race is a big deal, and you might not have guessed they'd elect a black man as president.

I also vote that Joe Biden is a random any-man. Maybe he's actually Joe the Plumber.
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