We at The CG Project got to witness history on Election Night in Chicago. The Patio Gardeners, Arlen Parsa and Tiffany Wilson, brought us along on their reward for going to Janesville, WI to turn out the vote in Paul Ryan’s home district. Others in the crowd that we saw there, or on Facebook photos afterward, include Camille Whitworth, Alheli Herrera, Evan Smith and Andre Duncan.
Election results were bleak leading up to the Victory Rally in McCormick Place. The last numbers I’d heard before jumping on a bus from the south loop was Romney 33, Obama 3 but I didn’t share that with Diana because she’d just fought through nasty traffic to get to the spot where we met up. After the bus ride, serpentine line and security check the candidates were tied at around 100 electoral votes.
Tiffany and Arlen had a head start on getting into the room and were already packed in, shoulder-to-shoulder, by the time we arrived. Finding them was near impossible until we were swept into a swarm that was allowed to move up to the bleachers on the opposite end of the room. That’s when we caught a momentary glimpse of them as we shuffled past their spot in the crowd.
Our new vantage point gave us a unique perspective of the event as a whole, but it was a long night of waiting for President Re-Elect Obama to come in and speak to us. There was jubilation in the crowd as news came in that he’d taken Ohio and reached 275 electoral votes. Spurts of euphoria would erupt with the victories by Elizabeth Warren and Tammy Duckworth. Loses by the Rape Caucus were also celebrated but it would be a long wait for Gov. Mitt Romney to concede the election.
We didn’t get to witness the, now famous, Karl Rove meltdown the way the rest of America did but Romney’s concession speech gave us a chance to witness the cultural and political divide in our country first hand. Before hearing his speech, I had completely forgotten that there was a room of people who felt the exact opposite of the way we did on one fundamental issue… that Barack Obama would be President of the United States for four more years. As we wondered what took him so long to give it up, they likely wondered how he could give up without knowing who won Florida.
What struck me about this moment was the disconnect between what I saw and what I heard. When our cheering and flag waving died down and the applause continued, I had to look around before realizing that it was applause from his own crowd. Moments like this stress the fact that America exists in multiple realities by exposing the fact that we experience common moments through different prisms. Our echo chambers are so strong that we can completely forget the other side exists. It was a sobering thought that emphasized the importance of the work that’s ahead of us.
The fever’s broken. Now that the most expensive campaign in U.S. history is behind us, we need to find some common ground for the healing to begin.