What a night. We had 12 or so friends over to watch the returns last night. We allowed ourselves to go into full media saturation mode, flipping the TV from CNN to Fox to Comedy Central, the radio in the dining room staying on NPR, MSNBC on the desktop computer, and three laptops floating around. Plus lots of delicious junk food & cheap champagne.
The atmosphere was electric. People yelled news from room-to-room as states were called by various networks. The big marker board was scribbled-in. When the networks called the election, seemingly all at once, the noisemakers came out. At this point, we were all excited seemingly on a horse-race level as much as anything else. I'm speaking for myself and projecting on the others, but I think we were delighted to each have voted, for the first time in our lives, for a winning presidential candidate.
McCain gave an excellent and gracious concession speech. He rejected the bitterness and divisiveness of his campaign, silencing some boos at first, and made a strong appeal to finding middle ground and shared solutions to the challenge ahead. He invoked the history of the moment, too, reflecting on what it says about the United States to have elected its first African-American president (the first black executive of a major western power, too, if I'm not mistaken). This was the McCain I admired in the 2000 primaries and throughout the first Bush administration, little seen in this general election. If Obama does some reaching out to McCain, and works to overcome the distrust McCain seems to have had of him since early 2005, McCain could be a helpful ally across the aisle. Honestly, if the circular conservative firing squad takes aim at McCain as much as I expect it will, the Senator may find more common cause with the President than his party on some issues (immigration and the environment chief among them).
When Obama spoke we were mostly silent, and for several of us, it got a bit dusty in the room. For my part the symbolism of the moment was incredibly moving, as were the possibilities of the return of American soft power on the global stage and an inspirational, oratory leadership not seen in this country in my lifetime.*
Lots of work to do, people, but last night is worth celebrating.
* OK, conservatives, Reagan was a Great Communicator. I'm thinking Kennedy, I'll grant you Reagan -- I'm feeling magnanimous today. You're welcome.**
** Magnanimous and arrogant.