President-Elect Obama

Ending the politics of fear and hate

Chicago's Grant Park became one big party scene as celebrants like these two girls turned out to hear Barack Obama deliver his victory speech.
Chicago's Grant Park became one big party scene as celebrants like these two girls turned out to hear Barack Obama deliver his victory speech. (Photo by Katie Hayes)

While the overwhelming mood at the Dris­kill Tuesday night was undeniably elation, at least one emotional moment was marked by tears: a celebratory embrace between former City Council Member Brigid Shea and community activist Robin Rather. It mirrored a nationwide emotional overflow marked again and again on the TV screens. Said Shea: "When I realized this might happen [Barack Obama's victory] a few weeks ago, I broke down in tears. I'm 53, and I never thought I would see this happen in my lifetime." Shea recalled bitterly the George W. Bush 2004 victory, accompanied by viciously personal right-wing attacks on Rather's father, TV newsman Dan Rather. "This marks the start of great new era for our country," Shea said, "but it's also a huge repudiation of what Bush has done to our country and other countries. ... They used hate and fear to divide people; they used patriotism as a weapon. That just has to stop."

In Austin, a man and woman become overcome with emotion
In Austin, a man and woman become overcome with emotion (Photo by Jana Birchum)

Shea said she expected the Obama administration would represent the start of a "golden era" for the U.S. and that he would succeed in the substantive changes promised by his emotional victory. "That's because he's insisted from the beginning that he can't do what he needs to do without keeping people engaged. He's told supporters, 'We need you there,' to enact his agenda, to keep the movement engaged. That's what has to happen for it to work."

A picture of hope Tuesday as Obama supporters watch election returns at the Driskill Hotel.
A picture of hope Tuesday as Obama supporters watch election returns at the Driskill Hotel. (Photo by Jana Birchum)

Similar sentiments echoed through the room as the huge TV screens noted state after state projected for an Obama victory. "Change is in the air," yelled an onlooker as Dem activist Matt Curtis told me, "People are indeed ready for change, and they're tired of being told how things are going to be done, instead of reaching out for a community conversation about what we should do."

An Austin woman thrills to the news of Obama's victory at the Driskill.
An Austin woman thrills to the news of Obama's victory at the Driskill. (Photo by Sandy Carson)

Council Member Mike Martinez, centrally involved in the local campaign for Obama, called the Obama election an opportunity "to move the country in a new direction." He said Texas volunteers "definitely played a role" in the national victory, from phone calls to Florida voters to block-walking in New Mexico, and said he hopes the national trends will be echoed in downballot Dem progress in Texas. "Obama will need to get the economy back in step right away. But he also needs to move to resolutions of the wars in Iraq and Afghan­istan, to decrease the U.S. roles in those conflicts."

Nearby, Mayor Will Wynn in lieu of dinner cheerfully wolfed down handfuls of bar nuts. Amid the noisy jubilation, he leaned over to say: "This is a remarkably historic election. [Obama's victory] of course speaks volumes to African-Americans, and it also speaks volumes to the international community."

Asked what he considers the priorities for a new administration, Wynn replied: "He has to focus first on the economy and also on the U.S. proportionate part of the climate change problem. There should be a jobs program, especially of jobs in the new green economy. And Obama knows that cities are a big part of the solution, not part of the problem – like Austin, a real 21st century urban city, looking to the future."

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

election, Barack Obama, Brigid Shea, Robin Rather, Matt Curtis, Mike Martinez, Will Wynn

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