Despite my plans to be home and sharing this historic moment with my family, I have witnessed the election of Barack Obama in a Red state. In my hotel room last night, I cried and cheered. I called family and friends to say what we all said simultaneously: "this wasn't going to happen in our life times but it has". I felt a sense of hope and relief. I celebrated that my 14 year old son would finally understand what true leadership looks like and that he might be spared from going to war in Iraq or Iran. But this morning when I walked down the lobby of the hotel and exchanged my first set of hellos with staff, it has become clear this actually isn't a moment of celebration or victory everywhere. One clerk remarked, "I'm just glad its over with" and another said, "Well, I guess we just have to wait and see what happens".
It's not that I'm new to regional politics-- but what did feel so different for me is the level of disconnect I was having right there with the people I had been on good terms with the day before. These two staff had smiled warmly and poured coffee on Monday. They had seemed so welcoming as good hotel workers are trained to be. So what happened? Why this shift in attitude? I didn't probe or try to strike up a conversation--they could have each just had a hard commute or a bad headache.
But I stepped away from my dinning table realizing that the shift of power is never easy. Eight years ago and four years ago my demeanor on election night was one of disbelief and disappointment. Those elections represented enormous defeat for me and because I was in California both times, I didn't feel so isolated or disconnected. Californiands then all seemed to wake up from a collective nightmare and there was no point in talking about the future. Today, I am in the minority with my optimism and hopefulness here even if Ohio did turn Blue last night. There's a legacy of views that won't shift in one night and perhaps should serve as a reminder the work of building community never ends. Despite the sense of victory, president elect Obama has his work cut out for him to unify a nation and anyone who voted for him shares that obligation, too.