Election Bonds and Divides

November 5, 2008

Post-election observations keep washing over me, none more powerful than this: democracy worked when I had lost faith in it.

The doubt was well-founded, I continue to believe, but today I’ve never felt better about the country. I’ll feel even better when the sins of the last eight years are reversed and daunting problems confronted. Honest and tough leadership combined with pragmatic solutions will carry us a long way. And President-elect Obama’s victory speech was a paragon of sober leadership.

Before Obama won, I was so caught up in the race that I failed to anticipate how his victory would affect people. The scenes on television stunned me in the best possible way. A phone call from my youngest brother and his wife moved me even more. My brother, not the most emotive guy and never one to get caught up in politics, had tears streaming down his face, his wife said.

And yet silence from my father and other brother, both staunch Republicans. Not even an email. It was as if the election hadn’t happened. In a family that grew up with politics and current affairs a staple of impassioned dinner conversations, we no longer talk about such matters. Can Obama’s victory and leadership bridge this gulf, which has divided countless families across the land? That may be asking the impossible.

Throughout the night I thought about Charlie and Mary, two high school friends who shared my enthusiasm for Obama. Charlie, a pilot, phoned me from a Texas airport while the early returns were coming in, bemoaning that he was headed to Florida and sharing the cockpit with a hard-core McCain fan. Mary, who put in many hours of volunteer work for Obama in Central Florida, emailed me several times. Joy lept from her every keystroke.

And what about the guy in the red pickup truck? The fellow who twice Tuesday slowed nearly to a stop outside my home office window, gazed at the Obama painting staring out at him, and waved. Today, he stopped, beamed at me, clasped both hands, and thrust them out his window in a classic champion’s wave. We’re strangers, yes, but bonded in momentous change we each helped to deliver.

After he drove away, I wondered why I didn’t open my window and shout out an introduction. Something tells me I’ll see him tomorrow and shake his hand.