There was that moment of transcendence that came in my own living room at9:25 p.m. eastern time when MSNBC called my state, Ohio, for Barack Obama.
I knew then it was over. The only question was by how much and how soon.
But I had to contemplate what Ohio meant. I had attended the huge Obamarally in downtown Cleveland Sunday evening where rocker Bruce Springsteengave a rousing endorsement of the Senator from Illinois.
There was that moment of transcendence there too âe” when Springsteen sang”This Land Is Your Land” with the entire crowd singing along lustily. Acrowd, I might add, that represented all the racial and ethnic groups thatmake up the USA.
All of them, waving a sea of American flags and singing together “this landwas made for you and me.”
I had a feeling then. Between the tears and the flag waving, for the firsttime in a long time, I felt that maybe just maybe, this nation could shakeoff a centuries old legacy of racism, hate, cynicism and divisiveness andrediscover the promise of our Founding Fathers.
This was something special. In a land awash in pain, fear and cynicism,last night an upstart first term Senator from Illinois showed an Americastill weary from eight years of George W. Bush that dreams still do cometrue.
Obama’s improbable march to the White House began in the early weeks of2007. And it all began in the cold steps of the Illinois state capital inSpringfield. He made a great speech, yes, but the pundits reminded us hisbrave campaign was doomed to failure.
A few weeks later the Illinois Senator came to within 100 yards of my CedarRapids, Iowa house – just down the street at my son’s school âe” John F.Kennedy High School.
My son Eric came home, loaded with campaign materials and very impressed. “Ithink he’s for real, dad,” my son Eric said. But how could he beat theHillary Clinton juggernaut, I wondered.
At the time, I was working in a local bookstore. A woman asked for a copy ofObama’s “Dreams From my Father” and asked me what I thought. “Not a chance,”I said. She asked if I really didn’t think America was ready to elect anAfrican-American as President.
“I don’t think so, sadly,” I said. “That is sad,” the customer said.
Never have I been so spectacularly wrong on all counts and never have I beenso happy to be so wrong.
Essentially the forgotten people of the American electorate turned out andput Barack Obama in the White House. Not just the youth vote which came outlarge and strong for Obama but the African-American vote as well as everyother previously marginalized voting bloc all rose as one person.
As Georgia Senator Saxbe Chambliss (R) warned while touring North Georgia,trying to boost turnout in his predominately white base: “The other folksare voting.”
Indeed those “other folks” were not to be denied this time. And those people– the non-evangelical Christians, the non-gun owners, the non talk radiocrowd, the non-whites âe” will not leave the political landscape anytime soon.
And years from now when this historic night makes its way to our historybooks, the next generation of American kids can read about how a man with ablack Kenyan father and a white mother, a man who really never knew hisfather, who grew up running the back streets of Honolulu, could someday bePresident of these United States.
Isn’t that what it this country was supposed to be about after all?
No, I didn’t believe it could happen. And a part of me still needs someoneto pinch me. I sit here Wednesday morning and stare at the numbers and hearthe pundits still talking about George W. Bush handing this election to theDemocrats.
Don’t you believe it. Maybe with a number of new Senators and Congressmen,the reaction to the GOP reign of economic catastrophe for eight yearscertainly helped.
But that doesn’t explain Obama vanquishing the unbeatable Clinton machineand then winning states like Virginia, North Carolina, Florida and Indiana.Don’t tell me those states would have elected a black man as Presidentbecause of a few bad economic quarters.
MSNBC reported exit polls showed Obama carried white voters by 10 points.
President-elect Barack Obama inspired America âe” across all demographicgroups. And last night, Obama spoke eloquently about being a President forall the people and said to the world “a new dawn of American leadership isat hand.” The man living at 24 Sussex Drive may also have to adjust histhinking as well.
So a new and more hopeful era begins in a country that seems to have analmost unique ability to recreate itself again and again, surprising most ofits critics and resident cynics âe” including myself.
I watched the massive crowds in Times Square in New York City and Grant Parkin Chicago last night and felt something I hadn’t felt in a long time.
Welcome back to the land of hope and dreams.