Tonight I ran the streets of San Francisco banging pots and pans, drinking champagne and yelling joyfully into open cafes and bars. Tonight I felt proud, actually, honestly proud, to be from the United States, for the first time since I was in elementary school.
It started after work, when I ran home to pea soup and NPR, and I heard the commentator noting that "many of those contested red states are turning a shade of blue." And then Ohio. Oh, Ohio. Obama and his campaign took Ohio. And then Pennsylvania. And Virginia. And so many more, until at long last, it was eight o'clock and the projections were suddenly not so projected. Obama: 323. McCain: 144. No hanging chads could destroy that landslide.
I was sitting in a friend's living room in the Mission, surrounded by twenty young progressives with open laptops and powerful lungs. The milisecond we knew, the minute it was true, the room was humid with tears. It was a reaction I didn't realize politics could provoke, transforming a group of high-energy, highly expectant voters into a quiet, weeping mass.
McCain folded like a stack of cards. He was dignified enough, putting his arms up above his head in that universally-recognized symbol of almost Democratic surrender. And then, after he seceded, and Palin waved her Miss Congeniality wave from the side of the stage, it all became so much more real.
Obama took over Chicago with three words: Yes we can. His rhetoric is impossible to beat, and his delivery is perfect. Even the tone of his voice is sympathetic, measured. The following phrase is what broke me down completely, gave me over to a new form of optimistic patriotism:
"Our stories are singular, but our destiny is shared, and a new dawn of American leadership is at hand."
And thus we took to the streets, feeling an almost Biblical pull, like Miriam with her tambourine. We shouted and screamed "O - BA - MA!" and kept pinching each other and running into cafes with our arms up high, surrounded by smiles and fellow chanters. The world feels new suddenly. Faith is palpable. Authority welcomes debate. Humanity is recognizable. American dignity is not an oxymoron.
I won't rattle off Obama's policy promises, although they are attractive (yes to health care for those of us with pre-existing conditions! and pro-choice education! and a quicker retreat from Iraq!), but perhaps more than anything is this injection of renewal that you can feel in the very earth. The days seem clearer suddenly. Grad school seems a little bit more attainable. Small, measurable gains seem possible.
And besides, who cannot love a president who says things like this:
"Sasha and Malia, I love you both so much, and you have earned the new puppy that's coming with us to the White House."
Finally, a leader who's funny on purpose.