Last night was a time of renewed hope more me; it was a time that reaffirmed my hope in the American people and reminded me of what it means to be an American and what a great honor and privilege it is to be relatively free.
While watching President Elect Obama's speech, I commented to my wife that the mood was more sober than triumphal and that they audience was not going wild. She responded: "They're listening."
Maybe that was Obama's real victory. He got us to listen again, to believe that there is power in the exchange of words and ideas, that a politician might actually be saying something that we needed to think about and not just responded to when "Applause" went up on a teleprompter.
There were a number of things that alloyed that joy. Some were selfish, others were and are more things that made me somber about the challenges the new president elect faces in bringing a divided culture together. They are:
1) North Carolina still hasn't been called. I wrote at another venue:
According to results posted at Fox News and ABC and CNN, Obama is ahead by 12,160 votes. (Fox says 99.8% have reported, ABC and CNN say 100% but haven't called it.)
This is a difference of 0.3%. (Obama 49.84; McCain 49.54; Barr 0.59%). Bob Barr's 25, 181 votes was double the margin of victory.
Every vote matters
The outcome of the national election isn't in dispute, but (this is one of the selfish ones), it matters to me that my state goes blue. It will be bittersweet to me if the general election is won but North Carolina lost by the slimmest of margins.
But how must my friends and colleagues who voted Republican feel? Intellectually, I understand that winner take all is no different at the state than national level, but there seems something odd about all the electoral votes going one way when the margin is less than 1/2 of 1 percent. Will there be a recount? I hope not, but state law allows for a candidate to request it in a margin this close. I sincerely hope that some day we can do away with the electoral college. It is a remnant whose time has passed, that served its function but is not the best way, I think, to elect a president.
2) Not All Life is Equal, Apparently.
A lot of Americans care about the unborn...as long as they aren't born and grow up to be gay.
Whatever bittersweetness I might feel at North Carolina being so close, I can only imagine it is a small sliver of what gays and lesbians must feel while watching the results come in. African-Americans have waited so long for the practice of America to approximate its promises that I can only be thrilled and happy for them and for us. But I did feel some hackles raised when both William Bennett (on CNN) and John McCain gave variants on the spin that this historic election means that no longer should Americans tolerate the "excuse" that achievement is impossible for some individuals because of insurmountable barriers. Unless, of course, that achievement is marriage and the individual is not black, but gay.
With between 96-100% reporting, clear winners seem in place for these ballot iniatives:
Arizona 102 (Ban on Gay Marriage)
Yes--56% No 44%
Arkansas 1 (Ban on Gay Couples Adopting Children)
Yes--57% No 43%
California 8 (Ban on Gay Marriage--only 92% reporting)
Yes--52% No 48%
Florida 2 (Ban on Gay Marriage)
Yes--62% No 38%
Over the last eight years, I've often chided the Republican party for being schizophrenic in its pro-"life" stance...of talking the talk on opposing Roe v. Wade but not walking the walk when it comes to respect for all human life. So, too, the Democrats seem to have chosen a candidate who embodies hope and inclusion and tolerance, who includes talking about gays in his speech, while on the state level telling that candidate that they want equality, but not, apparently, for everyone.
We must crawl before we can walk, I suppose.
3) You know, in spite of the fact that I kept hearing about record turnout, I was surprised to hear from FiveThirtyEight.com that the youth turnout only went up about one point. According to the North Carolina election board site. Approximately 67% of registered voters voted. I suppose there are reasons that might prevent someone from voting, but consider this--in an historic election, facing two wars, a financial crisis, the possibilit of several supreme court appointments, etc. nearly 1 out 3 registered voters in North Carolina didn't vote.
Sports Illustrated's Peter King quotes Saints player Scott Fujita yesterday:
"A lot of people think their vote won't make a difference, or that their voice will never be heard,'' Fujita texted. "But if we all felt that way, then the system would be broken. There's a lot more good than bad in this country, and the only way to begin to fix what's bad is to get out and vote. Also, suffrage rights didn't come without incredible struggle for a lot of people in this country -- women and blacks in particular. To me, not voting would be a huge slap in their faces.''
How many people fought and died so that I could cast my vote? How many didn't give the ultimate sacrifice but gave of their time, talents, and income? How many lawyers fought for my rights? How many politicians put the ideals of democracy against expediency? How many that walked before me had to give of themselves or sacrifice so that I could be free? How anyone could take that for granted or receive that gift with anything other than awe and respect is something I simply cannot fathom.