Above is a photo of my nephews Spencer and Sam, age 12 and 8, proudly holding their “Honored Guest” passes to the huge rally in Grant Park last night. They got to sit in the VIP section and witness history being made. I’m sure they will never forget it as long as they live, even if they didn’t get to bed until 2 am and had to go to school this morning on four hours of sleep. I never forgot the trip I made through Grant Park with my family when I was exactly Sammy’s age. We drove just a few feet from where Obama spoke last night to bear witness to the violence that had occurred hours earlier during the riots at the 1968 Democratic Convention. What a difference four decades makes and how great to see Chicago re-emerge in the national spotlight in such an incredibly positive way.
I picked Leah up at school yesterday to take her with us to vote. Leah goes to an extremely progressive middle school and when I arrived on the campus, I felt like I was walking into an Obama rally. As with any group of kids who largely ape their parents’ political views (in this case a cross-section of the kind of “elite” Hollywood liberals the Republicans love to rail against), there is a strong tendency toward rabid partisanship without a lot of facts to back up their points of view. I found myself grateful for Leah’s Republican Humanities teacher who tried to instill in his students a more sober attitude about the election that included educating themselves about the issues and avoiding a black-and-white “Democrats Are Good, Republicans Are Evil” stance. I was so proud of Leah when I heard that even though she herself is a huge supporter of Barack Obama, she vigorously defended a kid who had the guts to admit she was a McCain supporter from the verbal attack that followed by the rabid mob of Democratic students. Go, Leah!
At our polling place, I had tears in my eyes as I let Leah mark the Barack Obama circle on my ballot (she had a lot of questions about the other candidates who appeared on the ballot that none of us had ever heard of—Cynthia McKinney? Gloria LaRiva? Is there really still a Prohibition Party?). I insisted on casting my “No” vote for Proposition 8 myself and amidst all of today’s joyful news I am so deeply disappointed in California voters that this passed even if it was by a very narrow margin. So much for full equality for all citizens.
We watched the returns for a few hours on a big screen set up in our neighbors’ backyard and I got increasingly nervous as the newscasters did everything they could to build up the suspense and try to make us believe that the race was much closer than it was. But with Pennsylvania turning blue on the map and then Ohio, even the hopeful Republican pundits had to admit that McCain was toast.
We then took Leah to the Ahmanson Theatre in downtown L.A. to see “Spring Awakening,” the Tony Award-winning rock musical based on the controversial 1891 German play by Frank Wedekind. I saw this show on Broadway last year and brought home the CD. Leah learned the entire score and couldn't wait to see the musical. The original play had been banned in Germany because of its depiction of masturbation, homosexuality, abortion, rape, and suicide. (Let’s just say that Sarah Palin’s Wasilla church won’t be inquiring about group theatre tickets any time soon.) The musical’s theme of young people trying to find themselves during a time of great repression and conservatism seemed appropriate for this Election Day.
Following a rousing song called “I Believe,” the lights came up for intermission and within seconds people started getting text messages that the election had been called for Obama. Screams of joy erupted first in the balcony and then spread to each part of the theatre. People were openly crying and hugging each other in the lobby, in bathroom lines, and at the bar. I only saw one grim-faced elderly couple walking up the aisle. The man looked devastated as his wife said, “Honey, it’s not looking good.” I called my sister on her cell phone from the rally and heard Obama speaking live through her phone. What a thrill. The second act of the musical took on added meaning as the talented cast sang numbers called “The Guilty Ones,” “Those You’ve Known,” and “Totally Fucked.” We left the theatre in a throng of very happy Democrats and couldn’t believe how different this night had gone from 2000 and 2004 when we were up biting our nails until dawn.
Today I’ve been reading comments by conservatives on some political blogs who are dreading an avalanche of smugness from Democrats. I share this concern even though I’m often guilty of such smugness myself. Although I was horrified by the person John McCain seemed to become during the campaign, I thought his concession speech was one of the classiest ones I’ve ever heard. Of course politicians have to say those things after they lose, but McCain seemed sincere to me, as if he was finally free of the shackles of trying to win an election and could express himself more honestly. As people often say the day after, if only that McCain had been running for President, that’s the guy I used to respect! I’m not quite ready to be as magnanimous about Sarah Palin but I do vow that if she re-emerges on the national scene in a few years I will do my best to actually listen to what she’s saying and look at what she’s done instead of just treating her as the Poster Girl for everything liberals fear about conservatives. Not saying that I’d ever vote for her, but I can imagine a scenario where she is able to rehabilitate her image enough over the next few years to appear as a viable candidate for national office. Let’s see if she’s up to the challenge.
To end on an extremely self-serving note, it is beyond my comprehension that my family members not only know the President-Elect, they also know the actor who plays him on “Saturday Night Live” (Fred Armisen used to be my sister’s assistant). What are the chances?
Obama and his sister are huge Wilco fans and I’m crossing my fingers that my brother-in-law will be invited to play at the Inauguration. Adding to their chances is Obama’s selection this morning of Illinois Congressman Rahm Emanuel as his new White House Chief of Staff. Emanuel is also a big Wilco fan and when he ran into Sue and Jeff last night he joked to them that Jeff “owed him a concert.” Okay, Mr. Emanuel, I’ve checked Wilco’s schedule and they have an opening on January 20, 2009. I don’t kid myself that this means I’d ever get into the White House but I’m gunning for at least a video iChat from the Lincoln Bedroom. Do my delusions of grandeur count as Democratic smugness?