So way back in February I wrote a note on Facebook about Primary Day. (I’ll actually post that note, and some of the comments I received on it, right after I post this.) The first line of that not was “America felt especially beautiful this morning.” Ninety-nine percent of the time I’d be embarrassed to have written something like that. It’s a little Pollyanna for my cynical ass. But I stand behind it now, just like I did then–February 5th was an exciting day, a unique day, and even though my candidate would go on to lose in my state (as to be expected when you’re facing a popular Senator in her adopted hometown), the process felt like it was working somehow. More accurately, the process felt like something I wanted to participate in. And I wasn’t alone. Brooklyn College was buzzing that day. Hell, Brooklyn was buzzing that day. People cared. Young people cared. I’m not used to saying that in an election cycle.
Tonight, as I sat in front of my roommate’s computer (since mine is still in the shop–that’s unrelated, sorry), and I listened to NPR’s ongoing coverage of the results of primaries in Montana and South Dakota (Digression–I mean seriously. Montana and South Dakota. I know exactly ONE person who has ever even been to Montana–Oh Hey Phenom–and my high school prom date didn’t even believe South Dakota EXISTED, which is another story for another time. And it’s June. And Montana matters. And South Dakota matters. Can you believe it?) — where was I? Oh, right. I’m listening to NPR cover the primaries, and my phone starts buzzing with texts. Around 10pm, my buddy Rachelle–who I haven’t seen in a long time, but we bond over all things Obama–wrote, and I quote “I am a crying mess! Obama is about to speak.” Twelve minutes later, she wrote “Dude. He said it!!!!” She was referring, of course, to the line that had just made me applaud like an idiot all alone in my apartment:
Because of you, tonight I can stand here and say that I will be the Democratic nominee for president of the United States of America.
It’s not quite “Let me reintroduce myself–I am David Paterson, and I am the Governor of New York” in terms of pure respect-my-gangsta swagger, but it’s quite possibly the single most profound political statement of my lifetime.
I listened to Hillary’s speech just before Barack’s, and I have to say I was more impressed here than I had been before. She sounded, to me, at ease, bloodied and beaten but unbowed, holding her head up high (rightfully so), trumpeting her popular vote success, embracing her supporters, celebrating her supporters, and maintaining the powerful public persona that should continue to serve the Democratic Party well in this election and beyond. I went through my rough spots with Mrs. Clinton, and I know a lot of Obama supporters who still don’t trust her as far as they could throw Bill, but she went a long way towards making me feel good about her again with the opening lines of her speech:
I want to start tonight by congratulating Senator Obama and his supporters on the extraordinary race that they have run. Senator Obama has inspired so many Americans to care about politics and empowered so many more to get involved, and our party and our democracy is stronger and more vibrant as a result. So, we are grateful, and it has been an honor to contest these primaries with him, just as it is an honor to call him my friend. And tonight, I would like all of us to take a moment to recognize him and his supporters for all they have accomplished.
She didn’t bury this in the depths of her speech–she led with it. After all the divisiveness, both sides spoke of unity in a truly unifying way, and we got a little tiny bit of reaffirmation of what really has so many of us on both sides of the Democratic gap excited: these are candidates we can get behind, and they can stand together, and yeah, they’re not perfect, but they’re steps in the right direction, and it looks like, hope against hope, they might be taking those steps together. I’m still not sure I want her as a running mate–it’s hard to say we’re campaigning for change if we’re campaigning for another Clinton, but I certainly am glad to have her on our side.
I thought the rest of her speech was gracious and well-planned, emotional and not at all wooden. Some of my friends are wishing she had conceded then and there, but as you listened to the supporters who had gathered at Baruch to stand behind her, you could tell this wasn’t the night for admitting defeat. It was enough to hoist up her own considerable accomplishments in this process, put them out there on the table ALONGSIDE Obama’s, and express the magnitude of what really happened this year. More Democrats voted in primaries than ever before. People are passionate. Say what you want about her sticking around past the point of no return, but Montana and South Dakota mattered today. Hell, Puerto Rico mattered–and we don’t even get a vote in the real election. If Hillary had conceded tonight, I think that crowd full of supporters would have been heartbroken, maybe booed, maybe cast some kind of negative light on the overall moment, and let’s make no mistake about it, the overall moment is motherfucking significant.
His name is Barack Obama.
He’s a cool-ass young black dude.
And he’s running for President of the United States.
And god damn it, this can actually happen.