Some dudes are putting thoughts together better than I am right now
About five years ago, I was sitting at Tonic with my wife and a couple of friends, and I had had a few, not a lot, and I don't know how I got onto the topic, but I remember distinctly going off on a long lamentation about what it was like to be alive in the time of my life. Because it seemed to me that so many frontiers had been reached before I was born. And it seemed like so many frontiers would be denied by an overall mean-mindedness and smallness. And I wondered that night if I would ever live to see anything in this world that truly made me feel like there was a reason for me to be alive. And I lamented the lack of faith I had in those possibilities. All I can say tonight is that I never should have doubted, and I should have kept the faith, and I feel like the luckiest person in the world for having been proven wrong.
Obama's gift is that he understood America's great secret, that Americans have a deep and abiding need to love one another, and that we only lack the courage to do so. The theme of Obama's campaign has been a simple affirmation that we are in fact, one, in ways Malcolm never could have though possible and in ways Martin Luther King only dreamed of.
Red staters should take heart in the knowledge that this ideal is not exclusive. Obama's victory does not mean this is no longer your country. It is not the country conservatives believed it was, but it is theirs as much as it is ours. This is a nation of whites, blacks, Asians and Latinos, gay and straight, conservatives and liberals, small towns and coastal metropolises. No passion can ever break our bonds of affection, no matter how often it may seem so.
And maybe, just maybe, in the coming years, we can all learn to live with that. Surely those whose shoulders we stand on would have wanted us to, even if they could never see it coming.
Obama said something last night that deserves wider attention. "We may not get there in one year or in one term," he said, "but, America, I promise you, we as a people will get there." Where there is remains in dispute. Adam flagged how the line echoes Martin Luther King's final 1968 "I may not get there with you" sermon. And Yglesias points out that the real test will be a test of governing: do liberal policies truly work as well as we think they do? There's truth to that. But there's another truth, and that's that last night marked the beginning of the end of Nixonland.
The old seat of the Confederacy will cast its electoral votes for the first African-American president. As of right now, so will the home of Jesse Helms, who I truly wish had lived to see January 20. If we're to believe the CNN exit polling, Obama won 41 percent of white men, which is better than Al Gore and John Kerry did among that demographic. And the way in which he won matters tremendously. I think Chris Hayes of The Nation was the first to point out that the final two months of the race felt like a fast-forwarded highlight reel of all the old Nixonland techniques -- black Muslim pals around with terrorists to socialistically redistribute your wealth. In the mechanics of Nixonland, a young white woman who would rather lie and claim she was abused by a black man than see the better man become president is a feature, not a bug.
And yet Obama triumphed. John Judis is watching the Democratic majority that he first glimpsed in 2002 finally emerge. All this without a single policy achievement from the Obama administration.
I've never seen DC's streets like that. I've never seen any streets like that. Thousands of people, screaming, honking, hugging each other. An indiscriminate celebration. U Street was a mass of humanity, everyone giving high-fives, drivers stuck in the road and laughing with the crowd. The whole scene just utterly joyous and totally, even strikingly, racially integrated. Someone who knew more about the history of DC could do an elegant article connecting tonight's celebration of the first black president to the riots of 40 years ago. The race riots and the post-race riots.
My basic emotion is relief. The skill of an Obama administration has yet to be proven. The structure of our government will prove a more able opponent of change than John McCain. But for the first time in years, I have the basic sense that it's going to be okay. Not great, necessarily. And certainly not perfect. But okay. The country will be led by decent, competent people who fret over the right things and employ the tools of the state for recognizable ends. They may not fully succeed. But then, maybe they will. At the least, they will try. And if they fail in their most ambitious goals, maybe they will simply make things somewhat better. After the constant anxiety and uncertainty of the last eight years, maybe that's enough.
For those not in DC, or who didn't make it out, the city fully lost its mind tonight. Once the speech was done, we drove down to U St. to join the fray. From W St. down on 14th it was closed off, and U was closed from about 9th to 16th, aside from the slow parade of cars honking horns and blaring Sam Cooke. Every corner was a new dance party with drums, or stereos or just people singing and dancing and hugging strangers. There's not a really a good way to describe it. Mardi Gras? Kind of, but the energy wasn't booze fueled. New Years? Kind, in that it was like a new beginning. More like a fantastic dream state, the kind you hope is real when you wake up. I ran into students, friends, strangers...though it felt like everyone knew each other. We followed a crowd down to the White House and saw that much of 16th was slowed down by impromptu parades and cars with bodies hanging out the windows singing and dancing. At the White House? Crazy. Really. Huge crowd chanting and singing and celebrating. This was where we broke out the Knob Creek to celebrate.
On the walk home, wading through more crowds still heading to the White House, a mix of all ages and backgrounds, we got back to U St. around 3am. On the corner of 14th and U, there was still a few hundred people dancing. Anyone else have good reports of people taking over the streets in joy tonight?