I stood. I paced. I sat down and immediately hopped up again. I fiddled with rubber bands until they broke. I tried to follow six or seven websites at the same time — when I wasn’t staring at the two big screens set up at Town Hall Seattle. Every now and then I’d sneak out for a smoke, only to stub it out after a few pulls because I had to rush back in again to check what was happening.
I tried to reassure myself by putting my faith in Nate Silver, the meta-analyst who’d repeatedly said to pay no attention to the pundits and who’d calmly analyzed the data and predicted an Obama victory of over 300 electoral votes. I mean, I do have faith in Nate Silver, but hey, what kind of faith is it that never gets tested?
The signs were encouraging: on the state level, bigots and rape-defenders and all-out idiots being defeated, and good, intelligent people winning. But that popular vote was still so close, and Florida kept changing from pink to baby blue and back to pink again, and I wanted to march up on the stage with a dark-blue marker and simply color it in…
So when the magic mark of 270 electoral votes came up far earlier than anyone expected, yes I cheered and whooped and hugged and high-fived both friends and total strangers, but what I felt more than anything else was relief. Sanity had prevailed — narrowly, but clearly. And decency had prevailed.
There was no cluster-fuck in Florida. The right-wing attempt to suppress the vote failed, with people waiting for hours to cast their ballots (“we have to fix that,” said the president, and he might look to Washington state, with its all mail-in ballot system, for the fix). And I confess it was a pleasure to switch occasionally to Fox News and see the somber faces.
Big money failed, and several billionaires were left holding a bad investment in Romney/Ryan. Marriage equality passed in Maine and Maryland, and is ahead here in Washington state — the first time a majority of voters have endorsed it, as opposed to its being decided on by legislators. Ditto with legalization of marijuana in two states, giving the lie to the so-called “war on drugs.”
Just two decades ago, all of this would have been unthinkable. A black president being elected to a second term? Laughable. Gay marriage? Absurd. Legal pot? Gimme a break…
So yes, we do move forward. In fits and starts. Three steps forward, two and a half steps back. We fight off insanity, and redefine sanity: not Obama’s dream rhetoric of “a perfect union,” but the real, down-to-earth and difficult work of balancing pragmatism and idealism.
No elation today, then, not here: just a huge sense of relief. And a renewed faith in the idea that one way or another, whatever the odds, sanity can prevail.