Now Playing: The Electric Prunes--"Hey, Mr. President"
Yeah, this'll do nicely.
Four years ago, I was pretty much the first person in my precinct to turn out on Election Day. As I supported John Kerry for President, that didn't really turn out so well. This year, I didn't wake up until 8:30, and didn't get to my polling place until about 9. There was already a fair-sized line, and an atmosphere of polite but definite excitement among both voters and pollworkers. One girl came out of the booth with tears on her face, wailing (a little redundantly, to be sure) "I'm crying! I'm crying!" At one point a buzzer went off somewhere which some of us unnervingly thought was the fire alarm (that would have sucked). My precinct is an interesting mix of students, shifty service proles like myself, and well-to-do families or childless "professionals" living in a wedge-shaped slice drawn along the edge of the University of Michigan central campus. As a result, I often see strange poll-fellows come election time. It's a pity we didn't have longer lines for the people-watching, but I won't reorganize my priorities when the stakes are so high. It's fun to guess who's going to vote for which candidate; the vast majority of my own precinct, I'm sure, was pro-Obama, as was I, but I know I shouldn't assume things simply because I live in Ann Arbor. I've somehow managed to encounter quite a number of conservatives during my time here: several of my housemates, my former boss, the long-serving mid-shift cook at my job, and my co-worker who's actually pretty liberal but who doesn't vote because of the perniciously undemocratic nature of the Electoral College. I see his point; my position is that the EC is a flawed system that usually works, but his intransigence has gotten me thinking as to how it might be reformed to be a more accurate reflection of the popular will in elections when it doesn't reflect the popular vote--maybe something akin to the veto system between President and Congress. It might be a little cumbersone, but as this is really the civic privilege and responsibility, I think it might be worth a look.
Actually casting my vote proved anticlimactic. This is usually true, but this time it was a little disappointing. This election was historic for a number of reasons. Given the history of this country, it would have been astonishing enough to elect a black President. This choice came, too, at the end of maybe the most disastrous US presidential administration since Buchanan (regardless of that Rolling Stone cover story a while back, I'm not sure I'm ready to rank Bush below the President who practically ensured that the Confederacy started the Civil War on a much stronger military and political footing than they could have otherwise). For all McCain's talk about "not being Bush," he seemed determined to continue the latter's ruinous domestic record and to actually worsen it abroad. Finally, we had a chance to choose a President who seems to understand better than any candidate over the last twenty years (with the possible exception of Gore) the kind of challenges we'll face in the next few decades--the kind you can't just blow up--and with a leadership style that probably surpasses any presidential candidate of the past twenty years. I voted for Barack Obama, and though I may not have been as bright-eyed or bushy-tailed as the volunteers--particularly the young'uns--who turned out in such numbers over the past couple of years, I'm prouder of this vote than any I've ever cast. To quote one of the people with whom I watched the acceptance speech last night, "I can't believe this guy's gonna be our President--this is awesome!"
I spent most of Election Day at home, baking clove gingerbread and watching Peter Watkins' Edvard Munch (1974) and a DVD of Bill Hicks' live shows (the latter in many ways an ideal manner in which to celebrate Election Day). I later wound up at my friend Margot's to watch the election returns (mostly on CNN, then to ABC and NBC for some variety and to escape the reflexive hypocritical stench Bill Bennett managed to send through the TV screen, and then over to Fox for a few laughs after Obama won--did anyone else notice the so subtle "bling"-style shine over the name they had going for a few seconds?), with her boyfriend Brian and several of their friends. Margot is a valued friend of mine, and an academic of somewhat Marxist inclinations. Anyone who ever harbored the laughable paranoid delusion that our next President will be a Marxist should have a conversation with Margot. She was, as a result, a little more skeptical about our guy than I was, but it was touching and instructive to know that we both felt the same joy at his win, even considering that he'll likely not live up to her desires or, indeed, to my own expectations. Nevertheless, it was a glorious night, especially as I walked home through downtown Ann Arbor, to widespread yells of rejoicing, honking car horns, and a monster rally on the "Diag" in front of the grad library. It was only after I woke up that I think it hit me. I'd fallen asleep with the radio on, and the BBC World News on Michigan Radio was broadcasting reactions from around the country and around the world. At several points, I really did start to mist up.
As the overrated duo of Trey Parker and Matt Stone put it, "America! Fuck, Yeah!!!"