Okay, so we’re all happy for Barry Dunham... now what?
We will all remember where we were last night when John McCain made his dignified walk across the stage and it was no longer in question, Barack Obama was going to be the 44th President of the United States.
It strikes me as important to get this down (or 'up in the cloud') for posterity.
I was at a rather small bar in the West End with my girlfriend, Jodie and our friend Mike. We shared a ridiculous number of surprisingly good hot wings, several pints of beer and endured the cheering of hockey fans on the other side of the bar watching the Canucks shut out the Predators. The CNN feed on our side of the bar had no volume, but I had picked up wireless from the coffee shop next door and was giving additional updates and context as the projections came in.
We sparred back and forth about the value of projections. Myself on the defensive... though I guess I'll even do the other two a favour and prepare a hot dish of crow for them – perhaps I can get the bar's recipe for tangy hotness. Yes, projections in 2000 were famously wrong at a late hour, but as I pointed out they are based on a long history of statistical analysis and that the laws of large numbers make them very reliable as a whole, if individually unstable... and of course the same law means that every now and then the whole collected projection can go to hell, but that's extremely unusual and the wise money can be put on the projections. Anyhow, I belabour a point which I had the grace to not rub in then – or was it that anytime I opened my mouth I was shouted down? Anyhow, in type... "Nyah nyah!"
When McCain took the stage to concede they switched the audio from the game to CNN.
I was disappointed on some level that McCain didn't make the core of his speech something to the effect of "YOU – my own party – threw me under the bus, you fuckers!" But I have to respect his reserve and dignity. It has to be tough to know that in the past 24 hours your life has peaked. Not many of us will ever face that moment except from a long nostalgic way off, and fewer will be able to say that that moment came when we were 72 years old.
By the time Obama was making his acceptance speech, the entire place was quiet... though it didn't take long before one drunk blow-hard was sharing his opinion with everyone. Once that fellow spoke up it wasn't long before the spell had been broken for others and they too quit their rapt listening and began chatting again.
By my count it took 32 minutes from McCain's concession until Obama was campaigning for 2012. You'll recall the sentence "We may not get there in one year or even in one term."
When Obama's speech was over and the hockey game was back on I took my moment to shout the defiant sentence that had been floating in my head, ready for this very moment, for days... "Take that 'Real America!'"
No one has any real reason to believe my own claims on this, but I called this (yeah it was a 50/50 chance) back at the DNC. In a conversation I declared that Obama had for all practical purposes asked Joe Biden to be the Vice President, not just the VP candidate. My intention at the time had been that I felt this election was the Dems to lose. Over the past seven weeks I have allowed myself to get shaken from time to time into caution by nay sayers and conspiracy believers. There were arguments that were hard to dismiss, but I didn't want to believe. 'The Bradley Effect.' 'Massive digital election fraud.' 'Military Coup by Cheney.' (Okay, I suppose that last one may still be an option.) But time after time I kept coming back to my guarded optimism. Every time Sarah Palin opened her mouth; add the economic disaster that landed largely in the Republican's hands; tepid debate performance after performance by McCain; in fighting; Republican endorsements of Obama by the likes of Colin Powell; McCain's apparent frustration and eventual veiled despondency – the list goes on.
In the past week I felt a growing sense of comfort. Less and less did my doubts rise. A few days ago I told myself that it was no longer worth worrying about and that the question was now whether Barack would merely win or win by a landslide.
Last night, shortly after I arrived at the bar they called Pennsylvania in Obama's favour and I truly felt like I knew it was over. A little while later Ohio was declared his and I breathed a shuddering sigh of relief. There were a few moments where I felt emotional over the remainder of the night as I was defending the value of projections, but I had largely already processed my feelings of relief over the past week.
Somewhere in the darkest part of my soul I find myself wishing that the first words out of Obama's mouth when he stood at the podium last night had been "Allah Ackbar!" Possibly followed by "Learn your Morning Prayer by 5am January 21st or lose your tongues, infidels!" And then with a puckish grin "Heh heh... just kidding."
Today it seems everyone's Facebook status is either a statement of relief (okay, there is one exception I've noticed – a friend who falls in the category of religious right... I shake my head at their dire warning of the end of days) or a humorous comment about the sudden lack of news.
I feel lighter today, or as though I've been holding my breath for eight years.
It's like the end of a TV series. The final episode has come and gone and everyone will be discussing it for days, how in the final scene Hillary woke up and said to Bill "I just had the weirdest dream." Or perhaps it's more like Star Wars... the Rebel Alliance prevails in the final reel and deposes the evil Empire.
In any case, the sequel is bound to be interesting. He's put on one hell of a show, but now he really has to perform. It's going to be virtually impossible for him to live up to expectations, but he has the acumen to redirect those expectations towards realities both as they actualize and as they are anticipated. Let's face it, if the woodland critters came from the forest and gathered at his feet with wide-eyed adorable expectancy, it still wouldn't be enough for his detractors.