Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Election night in leetspeak

Obama totally pwned McCain."

-Our younger daughter, watching the growing disparity in electoral votes after McCain's concession speech
That about sums it up.

A few observations, in no particular order:

The pundits and newscasters were trying their hardest to keep up the suspense, hyper-analyzing every possible result to try and make it look like a competitive race. Then it was like a switch flipped, and BAM. Over. I got the impression they were simply killing time until the polls closed in California, and then they couldn't get it over with fast enough. Johnny Yen sponsored a Beat Johnny Yen contest, inviting readers to pick the time/network that would first call for Obama. I had initially placed a bet for earlier in the evening, until I remembered that networks are reluctant to call while the polls are still open. I picked MSNBC calling at 10:03pm CST. I was close but, big dummy, I wasn't even watching MSNBC at the time:


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On Sunday a coworker told me about his in-laws going to volunteer for McCain here in the northwest suburbs. When they went to the campaign office closest to them, it was closed. I told him about the series done by FiveThirtyEight.com that featured a photographer and reporter visiting campaign offices around the country, and describing the contrast between empty or closed McCain offices and busy, enthusiastic Obama offices.

On election day I got done with my chores and had a few hours to kill, so I decided to volunteer, wanting to help Mark Walker or Dan Seals. I was hoping I'd get to drive people to the polls or something. When I got to the Wheeling Township Democratic Party office, they were jammed with people. They didn't need any drivers, and they asked if I'd be willing to make some phone calls. Sure thing. They directed me to an office park in Arlington Heights, and I met Joy, the lady running the call center. They had more volunteers than they had jobs to do. She expected 3-5 volunteers, and there were 14 of us when I got there. A bunch of high school and college kids arrived as I sat making calls, and they started to send teams out to knock on doors and remind people to vote. The group of volunteers was a nice cross section of America--about equally divided between men and women, mostly white with a few blacks and latinos, and ranging in age from 13 to senior citizen. And they all seemed happy and energetic--there was a lot of friendly chatter and laughter between calls.
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Speaking of happy and excited, our polling place was busier than I've ever seen it in 18 years. There were 23 polling booths set up for 3 precincts, and at 11:45 am everything was busy but running smoothly. We walked right up and only had one person in line in front of us. I decided that I could spot the Democratic voters because they all looked excited and upbeat. I've never seen so many broad smiles at a polling place.

Get a load of this--the township I live in, Wheeling Township, is the most Republican township in Cook County. It cast 12,000 Republican ballots in the February primary, more than anywhere else in Cook County. Obama won a majority in this area, and Mark Walker got elected as state representative in what was formerly considered a Republican stronghold. For some reason, though, Mark Kirk was able to again fend off Dan Seals, so we still have a Republican congressman. Go figure.
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For those of you who voted "NO" to the proposal for a new constitutional convention in Illinois, thank you! The proposal was voted down by a margin of 64% - 35%. Again, I thank you and my pension fund thanks you.
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Upon watching his concession speech I suddenly saw John McCain as a tragic hero, and I regretted some of the angry and mean-spirited things I'd said about him.

I had always liked McCain as a politician and as a public figure; I supported him in the 2000 primary and, had he won, I would have voted for him against Al Gore in the general election. There were a few moments in this campaign where I got the sense that he was watching his own campaign slip out of his control--the exchange with the "he's an Arab" woman, for instance--and that he felt powerless to stop it. He made his own Faustian bargain, bringing on all the Rove and Bush operatives to run things for him, and then once he made that play he had to stick with it. How must he have felt these last few days? It must have been an awful moment when he realized that hiring and appealing to the people in the GOP who never liked or trusted him in the first place wasn't going to bring him victory.

I think that moment came for him some weeks ago, and it was painful watching him go through the motions after that, right up until yesterday. Now it's over, and giving one of the most simple and gracious concession speeches I can remember probably won't do much to ameliorate the anger, resentment and outright hatred his campaign generated in its closing weeks.
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Yesterday was the first time our eldest daughter got to vote in a presidential election. She was thrilled, and I'm so glad that there are millions of young people like her, enthusiastic and engaged. I hope they all stay that way; our nation is going to need them, and all of us, in the coming years.

There's an apocryphal story about FDR paying a visit to retired Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. shortly after his inauguration in 1932. After the meeting, Holmes supposedly said that FDR had a "second class intellect, but a first class temperament."
I still haven't decided if Barack Obama has the potential to be another FDR, but I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

11 comments:

Randal Graves said...

One question: how do you pronounce pwned? Poand? I don't understand these young people and their fancy cassette tapes and electric watches.

At least we won't have to deal with a ninth-rate intellect anymore.

Bubs said...

Randal, it rhymes with "owned".

And I'm with you on the 9-th rate intellect. That's a relief.

Wren said...

I think Obama's potential lies in his talent for organization, his ability to inspire and his tendency to think and listen to all sides before he makes decisions and speaks. He may never be an FDR -- different leaders for different times -- but he certainly has the potential to be one of the greatest leaders America has ever elected. Time will tell. Personally, I'm more hopeful about the future right now than I've been in years. It's all good.

kirby said...

You're a more generous person than I am, Bubs old man. Once McCain snuggled up to the extreme religious right, his convictions fell like dominoes, one by one, in an attempt to get elected. Pwned, indeed.

Doc said...

"second class intellect, but a first class temperament."

Hell, I wouldn't mind having that on my tombstone.

I miss McCain's speech, but from what I've read, he seemed to want to exit with some class.

Doc

Barbara Bruederlin said...

How lucky for your daughter to have this to remember for her first federal election. She was part of history being made! What a great night!

Gifted Typist said...

And the No's can thank you for voting that nasty new constitutional convention down

Erik Donald France said...

Oh yeah -- right on.

I agree completely re: McCain. Gracious conclusion. Perhaps Obama can offer him an olive branch of some kind, while shooing the others beyond the Palin.

As for Obama, I believe he has a first class intellect and then some; he's up there with FDR and Lincoln in temperament, too. Count on it. Just keep him alive and healthy first.

Cormac Brown said...

A "second class intellect?" It sounds like Oliver Wendell was a little off there. Let me say this, regardless of heart, a president is only as good as the people he appoints.

FDR surrounded himself with some of the best minds of his time and Clinton had a hellva Secretary of State. Carter was all heart, but in my lifetime, only Dubya has seemed to have broken Carter's record of appointing crooks and idiots.

Obama surrounded himself with some of the best campaign people ever and nobody (or history) will give Howard Dean the credit that he deserves for putting together the best campaign ground game, bar none.

Obama should be one of our best Presidents ever, if he follows the very same model that he had used during his campaign. He learned from not just his mistakes, but the mistakes of others and he did it so fast, that very few people noticed.

Barack was calm and he stayed above the cheap mud-slinging fray of the primaries and the election. He took the best not only from his own party, but he also borrowed methods from Reagan's playbook as well. Kennedy had that discipline and so did Clinton (despite whatever misgivings that people have concerning their personal lives), and that was what made them great.

Barack approaches problems from every angle and he tries to listen to all perspectives. That is why I have hope and that is why America should have hope.

dguzman said...

Thanks for the pronunciation guide to PWNED. I'm not cool enough to be able to figure these things out myself--like Randal, I'm stymied by these kids and their internets and their ipods and their tube tops.

Grant Miller said...

I paced in our living room for a couple hours Tuesday night. My wife - who is much wiser despite (or thanks to) never working in the news business like me - repeatedly said the news organizations were delaying the announcement to increase ratings. I now believe her.

This was the first election where I actually waited to vote. Total wait time: 15 minutes.