I just got back from the most exciting event I've ever attended in my entire life!
My wife and I are in our mid-50s. We both have arthritis. I'm way overweight these days. And we're introverts, living way out in the country and nowadays shunning most socializing.
But we're passionate about politics!
We got an invitation from a couple of old friends, one a high-ranking bureaucrat and the other a union guy. Did we want to attend the Mark Warner rally on election night in Tysons Corner, Virginia?
Well, that's an almost five-hour roundtrip for us. And we're from Maryland, not Virginia (although we both lived in Virginia for many years). And we really kind of wanted to just slack off and channel-surf at home.
But I had a feeling we were on a real cusp of history, so we girded our loins and went. Did I mention that I'm about half-blind from diabetes and a super cautious/scary driver? And that it was pouring rain in Washington, D.C. area rush-hour traffic all the way to our friend's house? Hard on the nerves!
The event was at the Hilton in Tyson's Corner. That sounds like a country town, but it's a giant "edge city" on the Washington beltway, a vast expanse of skyscrapers and parking garages. I've heard there is more office space in Tysons than in all of Atlanta. It's huge. And super crowded.
On the roads near the hotel there were hundreds and hundreds of Democratic signs, and not a SINGLE Republican one.
The hotel was PACKED with people. We went to the main ballroom and ended up standing on one spot for 4.5 hours without sitting. The room was packed like sardines with thousands of enthusiastic Democrats, I'd guess maybe 5,000 in the one big room [my wife thinks that's a bit too high, but I've given speeches to legal conferences in similar rooms, and I suspect I'm pretty close], certainly a fire code violation!
The first hour was miserable, people poking us constantly, and the AC not cranked up enough so we all were sweating like crazy. Up ahead of us was a huge screen showing CNN, while on the other side of the room was a huge screen showing MSNBC.
And then the miracles started coming!
There was much media there, including several TV crews. Much of the heat in the room was from many klieg lights.
Then we got a speech (the first of three) from Virginia Governor Tim Kaine! Then a speech from U.S. Virginia Senator Jim Webb!
We were about 40 feet from the podium, like having the best seats at a rock concert. It was awesome.
Then the fantastic acceptance speech from new U.S. Virginia Senator Mark Warner (replacing unrelated Republican John Warner)!
In Virginia, once a red bastion, we now have a Democratic governor and two senators (and several new congresspeople). We were all very thrilled to hear these three very honorable and admirable men speak. They're all kind of nerdy and geeky, but strong, and just shine with honesty.
A big theme for hours was Virginia. Why weren't they calling Virginia? People were worried to death. Everywhere people kept asking each other what they knew about Virginia. People were all busy with all kinds of electronic gadgets all around us, checking on different web sites, reporting grim news of McCain holding a lead.
But in his first speech, Gov. Tim Kaine said he knew some news that nobody knew about yet, said he had a little speech prepared for later. We all think he had arranged it to hold back most of the NOVA (Northern Virginia) votes until the time of maximum dramatic effect.
Shortly before 11, right before the polls closed in California, I got to witness about the most dramatic and thrilling thing I've ever seen! Kaine and Webb and Warner suddenly all sprinted to the podium; the TVs went blank; the sound system started blaring Stevie Wonder's "Signed, Sealed, Delivered!" at top volume--and those three geekie leaders at the podium locked arms and danced to the music with huge shit-eating grins for several minutes. Then Governor Kaine announced that he'd just had a little call from the Associated Press...Virginia is going to Obama!
The sound was DEAFENING! I still have ringing in my ears. It was the loudest thing I've heard since a Springsteen concert at D.C. stadium in the 1980s.
But that was just the teaser!!! After a bit more speechifying (about half of which we couldn't hear due to the exuberant crowd), Governor Kaine announced that he had even better news: BARACK OBAMA IS GOING TO BE OUR NEXT PRESIDENT!
And at that point an absolute nuclear explosion of sound erupted. In all my life I have NEVER been right in the middle of THAT much sheer emotional energy. It was AMAZING!!! The SMILES and the TEARS and the DANCING and the HUGS in all directions was just absolutely astounding. I imagine that Heaven is like that on occasion.
So many stories I could tell...
There was a rather distinguished looking black lady who had been standing right in front of us in the sardine-like crowd. She was well dressed, slender, probably in her 40s. When she heard the news from Governor Kaine that Senator Obama had won, she just started trembling and weeping in just about the most amazing emotional outpouring I've ever seen, including funerals and weddings. She couldn't contain herself for a good 15 minutes. She just had to hug to death everybody in the vicinity (including me, my wife, and our companions) for a good 15 minutes. It was very moving.
We stayed to see McCain's concession and President-elect Obama's incredibly beautiful acceptance speech.
Then the two-hour drive home. I can hardly talk from the screaming (and especially the booing, at developments such as McConnell's victory).
I haven't even checked the news since I got home. I still don't know if Franken won, or Stevens lost, or what happened in Montana, Indiana, North Carolina and Missouri. I'll probably be up all night reading.
I want to go visit some wingnut sites too, to add a layer of schadenfreude to my joy.
Coming home, we drove through the small town where we have our law office. It's in a red part of Maryland, and the McCain signs outnumbered the Obama signs about 3:1 (I was the first to put up an Obama sign, and quite a few people followed me). Coming home, down a stretch where yesterday there were at least 12 McCain signs, ALL ARE GONE ALREADY!
One of the greatest thrills of the night was when Governor Tim Kaine led the crowd for a minute or two with this: YES WE DID!!!
President-elect Obama praised the traditional American values of self-reliance, equality, and equal opportunity. After eight years in the bloody wilderness, during which I came VERY close to emigrating to Canada, tonight for the first time in years I feel proud to be an American.
By the way, I'm super-exuberant, and I'm not even drunk. Sorry to write at such length, but I'm just so energized by that beautiful crowd, I'm vibrating with passion.
We WON! And we're going to work steadily to restore justice and the rule of law.
I'll close with this: A year ago I airily dismissed Obama because he seemed so unseasoned. I was an Edwards supporter all the way. But I started listening to his speeches. I read both of his amazing books. About eight months ago I started telling my wife: This is awesome. This is a great man. This is a man who genuinely has the Hand of God on him. No power will stop him from being president. This is God giving us a second chance, in great mercy, despite the crimes of the last eight years.
And watching him accept the mantle tonight, as I kept shifting position to try to minimize the screaming arthritis aches from my ankles, I kept thinking: Thank God!