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the Presidential Election and Chicago Politics

It is 8:03 in the morning on Tuesday, November 4th. I have already gone to the polling station and cast my ballot, like I have done many years in the past. (Granted, this time I had a sheet of a list of incumbents so I could keep that in mind when voting; everyone thinks incumbents should get out of office because they get too comfortable in their position and lose touch with the people, but no one is willing to actually think about it on polling day).
But I’m not here to talk about the fact that I just voted. I’ll assume a lot of you are voting today, because this election, according to all the pundits and talking heads on the 24-hour drive-by media stations, is truly one for the history books. Actually, over the past nearly 2 years (damn, this is a long election cycle), this election process has been one for the books. For the Democratic Primaries, the real viable contenders were woman and a black man.
I mean, these two were real, viable contenders.
Everyone thought a Clinton torch would be passed along to Hillary and she was a shoe-in for the nomination (if nothing else, that would have been cool for women’s rights). And although Hillary doesn’t mention that she’s from a suburb of Chicago, that would still be kind of a cool thing for us Chicago folk. But no, she was beaten by a black man from Hawaii, who has decided to be real and genuine part of the Chicago political machine. When Hillary Clinton seemed a real shoe-in, Barack Obama edged her out in the polls, and after an insanely long battle, Obama got the nod for the Democrat’s Presidential nomination. (Well, it does seem fitting, it may sound crass to say, but black men got the right to vote before white women, ah, sexism is still more of a glass ceiling than racism).
And when it comes to the eloquence of Obama, I remember hearing him in the beginning of his running for President against the slew of other Democrat candidates and thinking that he couldn’t speak effectively. (Actually, I still hear him, and if he is not reading from a prepared speech and has to talk extemporaneously, every 3rd or 4th word is “um” or “ah”, at one of the debates I was trying to take a drink of beer every time he stammered like that, and I just couldn’t keep up with drinking and him talking, he stammered so much when answering questions in a debate with McCain).
Wait a minute, when I think about the weight of this election, I don’t think about the eloquence of Obama. I think of the fact that he, for all intents and purposes, is a Chicagoan, and I think about him getting so much money from supporters for his battle for the Presidency. Not only did Obama pay 7 major networks for a half hour infomercial (with Davis Guggenheim, the Academy Award-winning director and executive producer of Al Gore’s “The Inconvenient Truth,” played a role in the informercial production), but he also has Grant Park in Chicago as the meeting grounds for the outcome of the election results this evening.
I believe one million tickets were sold for this Grant Park event, but large screens will be visible outside for people clamoring near the entrance during the evening. Though I can’t confirm this, my husband even said to me that he heard that some major news organizations (like newspapers that leans more Republican) who thought they had access to this Obama event at Grant Park found out their access was lost, when very shortly afterward more African-America agencies, like Ebony magazine or JET magazine... You know, I can’t say with certainty that this happens, but it makes me wonder about not only his desire for more government involvement in people's lives (not very American, is it?), but also his old-time Chicago political roots.
But then again, that goes back to the whole “he’s inexperienced” argument, the fact that he was barely in the Senate nationally before he decided to run for President. I have been comforted with the fact that all of the choices Obama has made in recent months have been after consultation from a wide variety of intelligent sources. I have noted that although Obama has a history of being more liberal and more leftist than any other Senator working now, he has looked to a number of sources to come to more centered conclusions.
Who know what he would do as President (he does say one thing, but after researching you’ll see he won’t do what on the surface he says), but the question for me becomes what this town will be like tonight, with whatever decision is made for who the next President of the United States will be.
I said to my husband that a part of me wants to go down there, not to get a ticket or anything, but just to be a part of the madness. But the more I thought about it, the more I thought that I wouldn’t want to be a part of it, before my husband said that he’s curious about what the mob-like crowds will be like if Barack Obama loses.
Good point, so I guess it’s a good thing I wasn’t really thinking of going downtown for the madness tonight. And right now it’s still before 9 in the morning, and I’m still listening to the taking heads on stations like CNN (which I originally called the Clinton New Network), or MSNBC, or even FOXnews (you know, when one has commercial, check to see what the other one is spewing). So I guess that since I’m not going to be in the madness tonight myself, I can play armchair quarterback and hypothesize about the upcoming potential insanity because of this Presidential election.

hours after the polls close: the final count sinks in

Okay, it is 8:50 PM CST, and I have been watching the news media over-analysis. The can’t call it yet (because polls are still open for west coast states), but it is looking more and more like the first African-American man is going to be elected as the President of the United States of America.

There. I said it. I know that makes a lot of people happy, and in the more selfish I’m-a-Chicagoan-and-it’s-about-time side of me watches this, I am pleased. I see the madness at Grant Park when CNN shows coverage of it (and I look for CJ Laity of http://www.chicagopoetry.com there, since I was emailing back and forth with him just before he left with his ticket for the event), but it makes me wonder what the Government is going to look like for the next four years. Is Obama going to play the more centrist role that he has taken on during his run for the Presidency? Or is he going to try to push more and more severe reforms and programs on the country that we won’t be able to pay for? Will he be able to use his Presidency in a true leadership fashion, with concern for all of the citizens of the country, or is Pelosi and the majority Democratic Senate going to allow him baby steps toward his reforms at the beginning, then trounce on his ideas as time wears on?
I don’t know what it will mean. I have found it intriguing that at the McCain front (in Arizona), they were initially showing news highlights with McCain’s early state victories (like Kentucky), but by the time the projected winner listings for Pennsylvania (a state McCain really pushed for to try to win) and Ohio (a state that every Republican President in recent years has needed to win in order to win the Presidency), they stopped showing the news on large screens, and started a Hank Williams Jr. concert for the event.
I know the people in the audience had their Blackberries and phones and portable Internet connections, so I’m sure the word was getting to the audience, but the tome became a lot more subdued.
But the thing is, a part of me really doesn’t know how to feel about this. I don’t know if my indecision is because I’ve been watching both parties deal with the news (so I feel happiness for one, and yet a sublime resolution of seeing the end of the line for the other), or if it’s because I honestly don’t know what this truly means for this country. I don’t know what our standing in the world will be like in a few years (will there be an elation about the United States’ ability to mentally move out of the slavery days, or will it be a greater al Qaeda presence and resistance that a President Obama couldn’t effectively fight). I don’t know if there is a President that could save the United States from its current financial crisis (at least there isn’t one from either major party, Democrat or Republican; they love having the government too involved with American’s lives to get out of the way and let us solve the problem ourselves because of the lack of their intervention).
Yeah, I apparently didn’t vote for either one of them.

But, to calm my nerves (or try to make me laugh more about the state this country’s in), I am watching th live the Daily Show/the Colbert Report coverage of the election results, and they just interviewed Charles Ogletree (of Harvard Law School, who has just released a book, and oh yeah, has known Barack Obama for over 20 years). Steven Colbert asked him if he knew after all of these years that Obama was a Socialist (they throw that phrase around, but on a select few levels it is true when you look at what Obama has supported and voted for in his very short career), and Ogletree answered by saying that when he met Obama, he actually seemed very conservative, and he though Obama was a Republican.
I suppose that’s something to laugh about if you voted Republican in this election... It’s also funny because Obama’s policies have been more liberal than anyone else he worked with in the Senate.
But while watching the Daily Show/the Colbert Report coverage now that it is 10:12 PM CST, I saw Jon Stewart make the declaration before I saw it on CNN: that Barack Obama is now the President Elect of the United States of America. Stewart said that when someone needed 270 electoral votes to be elected President, Obama at the time had 297.
For some reason, I thought of bowling scores when he said that, and although he eventually got more electoral votes than that, I thought at the time that well, 297 is not a prefect score, but he clearly won. Now it’s just a matter of seeing how well he can run the country.

P.S.: I listened to a little of Barack Obama’s acceptance speech at Grant Park, and once again he sounded eloquent reciting his prepared speech. I was sitting on the bed listening to him start speaking with my husband, and I heard Obama say in his speech that with this vote, America sent a message that we have never been “just a collection of individuals”... When I heard this, I turned to my husband and asked if he actually said that America is not a “collection of individuals.” He heard it too, and I said, “but that’s precisely what we are, that’s the point of this country.” America is supposed to be a place where people can come and do their own work and get rewarded accordingly, not a place for people to come to get handouts. I think the change away from America’s roots is going to become more and more evident with our new President Elect.




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Chicago poet Janet Kuypers
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