We turned on the TV at 7, when the coverage began. All the stations had their maps and their stuff up and down the sides of the TV screen and scrolling underneath. They all had a billion ‘experts’ at the ready, but of course, they had nothing to report because the polls hadn’t closed ANYWHERE at that point.
So we played a game and kept the TV on in the corner as the results started pouring in. The TV stations here ‘call’ each state (as you may remember from the 2000 debacle) and they called a few big ones for Obama while we were playing so I was getting increasingly distracted. We finished up at some time after ten when they had ‘called’ Ohio for Obama. This was big. No-one has lost Ohio and won the presidency in a thousand years, or something like that. I started to get a little bit excited. I squashed it down because, you know, I’m from Scotland and getting optimistic about stuff like ‘winning’ anything doesn’t tend to turn out well. I’d already had the Phillies winning the World Series, surely I couldn’t hope for any more?
I bolted from the table the moment I had lost the board game (!) and hunkered down in my armchair. It was so nice to be watching an election without that sinking feeling that has become so familiar. I was actually starting to hope. I hadn’t sat this far into election night coverage before, because I was usually so disenchanted both by the results and the coverage, that I couldn’t stand to watch. Not this time.
At 11 pm the polls on the west coast were due to close and I was expecting the TV stations to wait a decorous amount of time before making some cautious predictions. Silly me.
At 11.01, they came back from a commercial break and said, “We have news.” They slapped up a graphic of Barak Obama with the legend “44th President of the United States of America” and added “Barak Obama has won the Presidency” and cut to scenes of cheering crowds and people crying and flag-waving, bemused children.
A collective “Huh?” filled our living room as three Scots tried to figure out how that had happened.
For the first time all evening, the news folks stopped wittering and just showed the crowds. There was no explanation, but apparently they had gone with the foregone conclusion that he had won most of the west coast, and had only waited to call it, for dramatic effect.
It was pretty dramatic.
I looked on with narrow-eyed skepticism until I saw John McCain walk out onto the stage at his hotel, to give his concession speech. They don’t do that unless they are sure they have lost. I’ve always thought it was an awful thing to do, especially when they do it before the polls have closed in the last two states, (poor Alaska and Hawaii. Maybe next time they can be allowed a five hour head-start and can start casting their votes at 7 pm the night before, just to give them a chance to be heard for once!). But this time I didn’t mind so much. I realised a maniacal grin had spread across my face and I was starting to believe this was real.
It was nice to be able to feel compassion and admiration for John McCain again as he talked (even if he did still seem to think Sarah Palin was a good idea), instead of just being scared.
And when Obama came out to speak, I sat forward in my seat and lapped up every word. There may have even been a tear (but I blame Jesse Jackson who was in the crowd crying like a baby, and I never can look at a man cry without joining in). It was great. He was statesmanlike, he was presidential.
This is our Kennedy moment.
(I just hope it doesn’t turn out the same way.)
This reminds me of having a baby. You hope for it and anticipate it for so long, and it’s exciting and phenomenal when it happens. And then you immediately start fervently praying to God to keep him safe.