Monthly Archives: January 2009

Observation: Broad Street, Election Night.

An observation I wrote the night of the 2008 Election, at Temple. Printed in the next week’s “Main Line Times”:

            Cheering, hugging, honking.  I was getting ready for the run to City Hall when I realized something – we won the World Series last week. Of course, in the streets now, no one would be able to tell the difference. Crowds of screaming people emerging from houses, some with alcohol, embracing each other in the middle of Broad Street while hapless officers resigned themselves to the sidewalk to watch the screaming mob yell “We won!” and enjoy the fireworks that were inevitable to follow. Last time I had remarked to a friend, “Isn’t it amazing how this kind of thing only happens with sports teams?” Or – at least – used to. This time around, there were no Phillies jerseys, only Obama ones.

            It was there, in the wet night wearing “I Believe In Harvey Dent” tee shirt in support of a fictional character, that the absurdity of the situation rushed over me. What was I doing? Fifty-six elections and, somehow, this was the one that would change the course of history? What does “We won” even mean? What defines “We? Am I one of them? I’d sure hate not to be. Was I really witnessing the election of a political figure, or was this something else entirely?

            Just as the Phillies had become the city of Philadelphia’s warriors, defeating the enemy horde in great and awesome battle, so had Barack Obama become our glorious and triumphant leader. But the story of the Phillies (for now) ends there, swept into the anonymity of the off-season. For Obama, it begins right here on the streets of Philadelphia, and similar cities across America, with the near-deification of a political figure.

It has no longer become an issue of whether Obama would make a good president, but rather what the reaction will be like when people realize that he is not Superman, only Clark Kent. That there is no magic wand that will suddenly end the financial crisis, the war in Iraq, and eliminate institutionalized racism.  There are no quick fixes to these most prominent issues that have plagued both the Democratic and Republican campaigns. There is only a long healing process that will last more than four years. Once the American people begin to realize this, they can work toward supporting a President instead of expecting a savior. To believe otherwise is to set oneself up for a fall of epic proportions.