A journalist observes life in the far north.
It was Tuesday, a little after 7 p.m. and I was in the newsroom eating election night pizza and typing my notes from interviews with voters at a mall near my office when I heard John McCain’s voice. I looked up and saw that everyone was gathered in front of the tv that hangs between the copy desk and the sports department.
“Is that McCain making a concessions speech?” I called out.
“Yes,” answered the managing editor.
“What?” I said. “But the polls here aren’t even closed yet. People are still voting. It can’t be over.”
“It’s over,” the boss said.
By the time I arrived at the hotel where the Republicans and Democrats had suites and where the Division of Elections had rented a ballroom and hung screens to show election results, half the Democrats were snookered and you could have mistaken the Republican suite for a wake.
I bumped into a Republican legislator and asked if he was feeling depressed. He said no.
“This was obvious about two weeks ago,” the lawmaker said.
“But McCain said he had something up his sleeve,” I replied. “He’s managed to come back before. And polls have been wrong before.”
“McCain was drinking some funny Kool-Aid,” the lawmaker said.
Inside the Republican suite, chairs were pushed against the walls and a few stragglers were sitting, murmuring in small groups.
Down the hall, the Democratic suite looked like a New Year’s Eve party. People were shoulder-to-shoulder, hugging, crying, drinking and laughing.
I saw a black colleague. He smiled and put his hand on his heart.
“I never thought I’d see it,” he said. “A black man is President of the United States.”
I saw one of my former journalism professors, a woman known for her liberal views. She wore a T-shirt with Obama’s face and written in Magic Marker across her chest was “My president.”
“What do you think, Amanda?” she asked.
I tried to be diplomatic—I was on the clock, you know?—and gave her some line about how I thought McCain made a fine concessions speech. Which is true. She frowned. But wasn’t I just elated that Obama had won? I thought about it, and told her I was pleased that the Bush years were about to be behind us. I told her that I didn’t quite know what to expect from Obama. He has made a lot of promises, and he hasn’t much of a record in politics. (Full disclosure: I wanted Hillary to get the nomination. Obama is inspiring, yes, but I wanted a known quantity.) The former professor didn’t like that answer either. I think she took me for a Republican. That’s the most frustrating thing about partisans. If you’re not with them, than they assume you are with the other side.
The results for the state races took a long time to come in. As the hours passed, I removed my suit coat, tied it around my waist and rolled up my sleeves. I was covering the race for state House involving a district on the north side of town. I was lucky that my two candidates stayed in close proximity of each other. I hung near the Democrat because the Republican candidate was surrounded by a large family. And the Dem was trailing most of the night. He’d be the one more likely to try to sneak off before I got an interview. I was ready to pounce once the final results were made known.
As the night wore on, I’d see a co-worker and he or she would ask me whether I had seen so-and-so. Their candidates were moving around, going to other rooms and generally disappearing into the hotel.
By 10:30 p.m., most of the election results remained inconclusive. People were starting to leave.
Back at the office, the pizza was cold and another news service was putting out stories, calling winners in some of the races that we thought were undecided. Too many ballots were still uncounted. The police scanner crackled because a Thai restaurant was on fire.
It was nearly 2 a.m. by the time I got home.
The next day, Alec came home armed with some not very politically correct jokes he was told regarding our soon-to-be black president. None of them were particularly funny. The punchline of one joke was that Obama would get a pit bull puppy for his daughters. I wonder how far “Saturday Night Live” will take it.