One Year On After Barack Obama’s Election – Part 1

by on November 4, 2009 · 10 comments

in Civil Rights, Election, History, Organizing, War and Peace

Election night, November 4, 2008. A long shot of Grant Park, Chicago (Photo: Bonnie Trafelet)

Stop and think a moment. Tuesday November 4, 2008. Election night. I bet you can remember where you were, what you were doing.

We had invited friends over, to celebrate together, or commiserate together- who knew? We weren’t sure what the outcome of the election would be. Would Obama carry Pennsylvania and Ohio and Virginia and North Carolina?

We had the computer set up with MSNBC, and the champagne was flowing. Earlier that day at the Central library information desk where I worked I answered many many questions about where people could vote. These people were mostly elderly, looked like the “urban poor” and many were African Americans. I checked the Registrar of Voters on my computer and told them where they had to go and felt very proud that this is what library workers do.

When I got off the bus that morning- it was drizzling- I asked the group of homeless people at 9th and Broadway downtown whether they had voted. They laughed and said “Lady, we’re homeless…” Imagine that, homeless people, like felons, don’t have the right to vote.

Eight o’clock rolled around that night and we could not believe our eyes or ears- Barack Obama had won the election! We gathered up pots and pans and stood on the front porch and banged and made a joyful noise. All up and down my block voices were cheering in the night and there was salsa music and hoorays and it was as if a wildly uplifting secret had finally been revealed.

I stood there on my porch and banged on a pot and cried. I cried in relief- the wasteland of eight friggin’ years of two wars, Guantanamo, Don’t Ask Don’t Tell was over. A chance for women’s reproductive rights and health care reform lay ahead.

I’m 59 years old, pretty damn tough and don’t cry easily. The first presidential vote I cast was for Shirley Chisholm in 1972. (I wonder whether I will ever cast a vote for a woman president again- I’d like to do that before I leave this earthly paradise.) But I have to say this time was different. It was not simply the nuts and bolts of politics. It was the heart and soul of what so many of us believed in.

Tonight it is one year on. I have experienced first hand the town hall debacles. We are mired in a health care debate that may very well be scuttled by the Democratic party; two wars continue and a third CIA “intrusion” in Pakistan slips under the radar of everyone except the Pakistanis; don’t ask don’t tell hasn’t been eliminated at the flourish of the executive pen; and it seems that every sperm is sacred.

I’m 59 years old, pretty damn tough and don’t cry easily, but tonight I sit here feeling oddly defeated. Over this past year I started reading blogs- Huffington Post, Firedoglake and Daily Kos. Rachel Maddow has become my consistent source of news and Jon Stewart had made me laugh and get it.

Much has been made of the conservative base- the tea baggers, the wingnuts, the astroturfers. But what about our progressive base? We should be kicking major ass right now, and why isn’t that happening?

So where were you one year ago and what should we be doing?

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Rob November 6, 2009 at 9:20 am

no comments, wow.


avatar john November 6, 2009 at 10:30 am

Well gee willikers, what did you expect a career politician was going to do, actually change things? He delivered on one thing, hope, and that’s just about spent. I knew he wasn’t going to shut down the Iraq occupation even though the more left leaning members of the party expected it, when the campaign is over and the reckless rhetoric ends the man now has to face a period of managing responsibly, and US foreign policy cannot reasonably be expected to do complete 180’s every 4 or 8 years. You know what kind of havoc that would wreak with our allies?
I voted for Bush in 2004 because Kerry was an idiot and the reasons my fellow Americans told me to vote for him were equally idiotic, and being a military veteran I thought he was playing politics with war just as he did 30+ years ago and young americans on foreign soil would pay for it.
I voted for Obama in 2008 because I couldn’t find a single reason why anyone in the country should vote for McCain, and found a few why they shouldn’t. (deploying US troops in US cities to fight the war on drugs. was he mad?)
Obama gave me goose bumps when he spoke in his best speeches, but I never for a minute forgot what I was listening to- a Washington politician on the election trail.
Don’t vote for a party or even a candidate, vote for the issues that matter to you and if all else fails close your eyes and let the pencil drop where it may. You’ll have far more integrity than anyone telling you you can’t be a good republican if you aren’t prolife or you can’t be a good democrat if you aren’t anti-war.


avatar Shawn Conrad November 6, 2009 at 10:52 am

I am thinking about running in 2012.

I will make sure all people have health care, a huge stipend check every month to compensate for low wages, free education for all, and will set up individual states to cater directly to the needs of the people.

Also, every issue (including send troops and bringing them home) that affects the nation will be decided by popular vote of the people.

This way the people will decide how the nation is run.

I will also conquer at least one oil bearing nation (if the people allow it) to provide inexpensive petroleum.

After we are all home and the nation is fortified, we will begin discussing my plan of world imperialism and earthly domination (if the people allow it).


avatar annagrace November 6, 2009 at 11:43 am

Shawn- will you be the candidate of the “Kinder, Gentler Pirate” party?


avatar Shawn Conrad November 6, 2009 at 11:55 am


I was thinking more along the lines of tyrant personally. I will also reinstate the “eye for an eye” policy.


avatar annagrace November 6, 2009 at 11:38 am

Hey John- thanks for your comment. The rub for many of us is that Obama on the campaign trail addressed the issues we cared about and that’s why we voted for him.

There’s much to be said for your “I call them as I see them” approach. It is bad politics to pull the wool over our own eyes. Simply wanting to believe something is true doesn’t make it true. I do however think it is reasonable to expect significant well articulated differences among the different political parties on the role of government and the kind of presence we maintain within the international community, for starters. While I don’t always vote for the Democratic candidate and have chosen Independents, Peace and Freedom or Greens instead, I can’t imagine voting for a Republican for president precisely because there is an ideological difference that affects public policy.


avatar Wireless Mike November 6, 2009 at 11:38 pm

Anna, I think you echo the feelings of a lot of disenchanted liberals. For many of us, our very survival depends on Progressives delivering on their campaign promises, particularly in regard to healthcare reform and jobs.

Yes we can, but will we? Progressives in Congress need to grow a backbone and stop being bullied by right-wing stonewallers. Compromise requires both sides to concede something. So far, only the left has made concessions while the right has stood firm on ideals. As a result, corporate profit prevails and ordinary people have again been abandoned by the leaders they voted into office. It is not enough to simply dismiss inaction as the usual empty campaign promises. This time there is too much at stake. If we don’t get some real action on jobs and healthcare, and soon, a lot of honest Americans will suffer and die needlessly. All so that corporate executives can buy new sports cars, yachts and vacation homes. That’s not the change I can believe in.

Come on, Mr. Obama, let’s get on the ball here. It’s time to kick some right-wing ass, not to kiss it.


avatar annagrace November 7, 2009 at 10:25 am

At this moment my focus is on all those Blue Dog Dems- Lieberman, Lincoln, etc- who are serving the corporate masters who bought their positions instead of the will of the people who elected them. Or Stupak, the anti-abortion Democrat who who strip all coverage for abortions from the health care reform bill.

There are some encouraging signs of Progressives With Backbones- Grayson, Weiner, and Kucinich on health care reform, Betty McCollum’s smackdown of the anti-Acorn frenzy; Franken’s anti-rape amendment; Barney Frank’s consumer protection efforts.

Until we have comprehensive campaign reform, the odds are stacked against progressive candidates. But at the very least Democrats should be thumped very very hard by the leadership when they vote against their constituent’s wishes.


avatar Frank Gormlie November 11, 2009 at 11:10 am

Remember the day and night well, Anna. I had been blogging all day – election day – in order to capture the drama of the unfolding votes. At about 8 I had to stop … it was obvious who was going to win at that point here on the West Coast. We opened some champagne and watched the Chicago scene with goosebumps and tears.

The Bush nightmare was almost over. The American people had corrected the country. For the first time for many young people and people of color, hope was in the air.

The Obama saga is not over – it really has barely begun. Let us keep warm these memories of election night – when many of us acted in concert with millions of our fellow citizens to reject where the previous administration had taken us.


avatar Deborah Logan February 28, 2010 at 9:33 am

Rachel Maddow – yes! Barak Obama – all flash and no dash. What a major disappointment. Just discovered your blogs, AG. Glad to know you are still fighting the good fight until you “leave this earthly paradise.”


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