Barackin’ in the Free World


A picture of a picture taken at the rally

A picture of a picture on display at the rally

Blue cities do

Blue cities do

It was amazing yesterday to be an American and watch history unfold. And doubly amazing if you were an Obama supporter and a Chicagoan.

patriotic too

patriotic too

I suppose I’m a little late weighing in on this, as the real bloggers were giving blow-by-blow accounts or have already done their Election Day post-mortem. This is kinda redundant, I guess. But what the hell, concerns like that have never stopped me before.


Cllick me to get some flavor of the night!

For logistical reasons, we were not at the huge Grant Park rally, but I went down a few hours before it started to get a feel for the vibe. I have never done Times Square on New Year’s Eve, but I imagined the energy downtown last night was similar to that, constantly being fed by the growing throngs streaming toward the park.

The media, naturally, was everywhere, reporting in dozens of languages (a Thai TV crew showed up at the bar where we watched the rally results – and let me give a plug to that fine establishment, the Chicago Ale House, with dozens of great beer on tap, good hummus, and some really considerate staff), interviewing passers-by, and giving me camera envy with their top-of-the-line equipment. (You can see throughout this post the quality, or lack thereof, of both my camera and skill.)

img_0866Some media, and lucky owners of a ticket to the official rally, clutched their magic passes of entry like the finders of the golden tickets in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I was jealous, especially of the media, because it would have been so great to have the freedom to roam everywhere and really soak up the excitement of the event. But if I did have a press pass, I guess I would have had to do the obligatory interview with the Deadhead-looking dude, wearing the woven Inca cap with  earflaps, selling T-shirts. And that would have been a drag. I passed by him about five times, and each time a different news team was interviewing him.

Overpriced pizza arriving under armed guard

Overpriced pizza arriving under armed guard

img_0855I happened to come across one news crew interviewing Jesse Jackson, talking about the momentous event we were all cautiously optimistic would unfold later that night. Here’s a sorta muffled excerpt.

I also decided to check out a return-watching party hosted by the Young Republicans. What a hoot, I thought, going in. The reality was much darker. You knew right away these were Republicans – a bottle of Miller was $7.50! So these Young Repubs are obviously sitting on some nice trust funds. And they had the fine duds and well-scrubbed visages to prove it.



Since the night was young, the room was almost empty. Seemed like more media than McCain fans. I eavesdropped as one college-aged reporter questioned a 23-year-old guy about his party’s ticket. Man, they train them well. This guy blurted out every McCain talking point like it had been programmed into his RoboRepub brain in utero.  And how he gushed about Palin! So smart! So much executive experience! I was this close to butting in and setting that young whippersnapper straight. But I refrained. The hoot, though, had quickly dissipated. Besides, every TV there was turned to Fox News, and the early returns didn’t look so great. And it was Fox News. All the optimism I had been feeling got sucked out of me. Time for some fresh air and a dose of reality.

Up at the ale house, I watched the returns with a growing sense of comfort. The polls were holding true; there would be no Bradley Effect. I thought about the mundane and the less so. Chicago, now, has to have a lock on getting the 2016 Olympics. I know that doesn’t make everyone here happy, but I think overall it will be good for the city. McCain gave a good concession speech. The real “maverick” who won over the media and impressed some Democrats 8 years ago was finally let out of the locked basement. Too bad that other asshole was running for him during the campaign. The Republicans, maybe, will finally realize that playing to their base – the rabidly narrow-minded and ideological – can be really stupid at times. And fear doesn’t always sell, despite what Karl Rove says.

And then the networks told us what we had all hoped for and (prayed was not a cruel fantasy) was actually true. Our guy won. The guy with brains won. The guy who did not spend the last few months demonizing his opponent won. Oh, and the guy with an African father won. I know the cheering in the ale house – and the later tears when Obama spoke – were repeated across the country. But being here in Chicago, it felt extra special to watch this happen. This city where so many blacks came during the Great Migration, seeking something better than what they had in the South, and where racism was ingrained for so long.  Where de facto segregation still is a way of life, but where improvements have been made. A city where workers and reformers have long struggled to make this a more equitable and humane country. Obama’s chosen hometown. My chosen hometown (at least for 6 months; yes, even in the good times, aspects of the crisis loom…). I don’t think I would have had all these thoughts and feelings if we were still ensconced in Connecticut suburbia. Leaving this historic place just became a little harder.


But at least I was here for this moment. And at least, after 8 years of pulling my hair over the lies and heinous acts coming out of the White House, I have hope for something better.


~ by mburgan on November 5, 2008.

One Response to “Barackin’ in the Free World”

  1. You are so lucky!!! I guess we all are. Next we get to look forward to Sarah Palin in 2012! Yippeeee – NOT.

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