Alamobama bash

By Gilbert Garcia

Here's a chronological recap of my election night:

6:42 p.m. -- I arrive at Sunset Station for the Term Limits Extension party. Things are a bit dreary. Only 11 people are here, but among them is former Councilwoman Bonnie Conner, who chats with friends. Elisa Chan, already campaigning for the District 9 council seat, talks about her eagerness to bring more international business to SA, and expresses guarded optimism about the term-limits initiative: "I think we've got a chance," she says. "People on the North Side are pretty conservative and I'm hearing people there say they support it."

7:25 p.m. -- I make my way to the Obama party at El Tropicano Riverwalk. CNN shows Obama clinging to a 52% to 48% lead over McCain in Florida. An elderly man near the food line blurts out: "We need that! I don't give a shit about Kentucky!"

7:39 p.m. -- CNN calls Pennsylvania for Obama, an announcement that's met with the first shrieks of pure joy I've heard tonight.

7:49 p.m. The Show Band kicks off their first set with "We Are Family." Meanwhile, David Gergen pontificates on the two big screens that flank the stage. The place is starting to fill up.

8:01 p.m. -- CNN calls New York, Minnesota, and Wisconsin for Obama. When they show McCain taking Wyoming and North Dakota, the announcement is greeted with a chorus of boos, but they're almost boos of pity, nothing like the boos of anger/vengeance heard so often at Texas Democrats' parties.

8:15 p.m. -- The Show Band, like Obama, tries to put a dent in the Solid South. They unleash "The Boot Scoot Boogie," and a line-dancing Rainbow Coalition fills the ballroom floor.

8:30 p.m. -- Doug Bineham, local attorney and impassioned Obama supporter, tells me he spent the day doing "voter-protection work" for Alamobama. He was encouraged by the fact that very few irregularities were reported. Two small concerns: Universal City took down campaign signs outside a voting center, and the town of Buda briefly did the same.

8:34 p.m. -- CNN calls Ohio for Obama, the first big red-to-blue swipe of the night. The crowd roars while the band cranks out Little Richard's "Lucille."

8:35 p.m. -- Gretchen Lewis is giddy. Lewis, an Alamobama mainstay, spent the last few days helping to organize campaign trips to swing states. She devoted her election day to making phone calls to voters in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Missouri. She says the reactions she received made her optimistic about the first two states, but she thinks McCain will take Missouri. Lewis gets emotional talking about her 83-year-old mother in Pennsylvania, who worked on her first-ever campaign, making calls on behalf of Obama. She says when Pennsylvania went to Obama, she called her mother and said, "Thanks Mom!"

8:56 p.m. -- State Representative Trey Martinez Fischer leads the crowd in a chant of "Yes We Can!" He announces that Obama is running slightly ahead of McCain in SA; that Ciro Rodriguez is winning his Congressional race; and that the Dems are doing well on a county-wide basis.

9:21 p.m. -- Texas falls into the McCain column. The loudest boos of the night, so far.

9:45 p.m. -- CNN's Anderson Cooper is interviewing a hologram of, and it looks profoundly strange, but we don't know whether they're exchanging recipes or breaking down the Electoral College, because The Show Band is loudly rocking "Brick House."

10 p.m. -- CNN calls California for Obama. He's now the President-Elect. The ballroom now feels like a mini-Grant Park. It's just like New Year's Eve, particularly the part where tipsy strangers start hugging each other and humming old disco tunes.

10:10 p.m. -- Council colleagues Phil Cortez and Delicia Herrera sport big grins as they clap along with "Celebration." Cortez says, "We're watching the American Dream." Herrera tells me that the term-limits initiative passed and they suggest that all the Council's collective work paid off in the voting booth.

10:19 p.m. -- McCain concedes with surprising grace, considering that only a few weeks ago he called Obama "that one." The Obama crowd loves the speech until McCain mentions Sarah Palin, which sends a thunderous round of boos at the TV screen.

10:58 p.m. -- Obama, accompanied by his wife Michelle and their two young daughters, takes the stage at Chicago's Grant Park, and announces that he'll accept this presidency thing.

His speech rivals his 2004 convention speech (still his finest political hour) for eloquence, inspiration, and bi-partisan high-mindedness. WIthout ever directly mentioning his race, he alludes to the election's historic nature in a variety of ways. He invokes MLK's final speech with this promise: "We as a people will get there." He connects himself to Lincoln, the emancipator from Obama's state of Illinois, with this olive branch to his foes: "Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection."

Most artfully, he tells the story of the last century as seen by Ann Nixon Cooper, a 106-year-old African-American woman from Atlanta, who cast her ballot today. He uses her story to illustrate how much this historic night means, and then strikes a classic Reagan chord by asking, if his own daughters are blessed to live as long as Cooper, what changes will they see: "This is our chance to answer that call. This is our moment. This is our time."

Given the magnitude of his triumph, Obama looks fairly somber as he waves to the crowd. It could be weariness, thoughts about his grandmother (who died Monday) or, most likely, that these times are too difficult for him to get caught up in wild celebrating. Also, he might generate some good will with the GOP if he doesn't appear to be rubbing their defeated noses in the dirt.

11:25 p.m. -- As Obama backers file out of the ballroom, you can hear car horns honking up and down Lexington Avenue. If you didn't know better, you'd think the Spurs had just won another title.


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