Sunday, November 4, 2012

Four years ago: Remembering election night 2008

Four years ago on election night 2008 I was sent to the Crown Plaza Long Island hotel in Holtsville, where the Suffolk County Republican Party was gathering. My job was to report on the outcome of the local races for a North Shore weekly newspaper.

I showed up just after 9 p.m., too early for results, so I sat down in the newly refurbished sports bar and restaurant and stared up at a stunning plasma TV displaying a high-definition map of blue and red states and a constant stream of percentages and electoral vote totals.

As history flashed across that TV and others, waitresses in striped referee shirts, worn one size too small, scurried around the room carrying trays of drinks. Some of us may have been slightly distracted by the cleavage and small-of-the-back tatts of the service staff, however most of those gathered seemed to be in shock from the televised images of Obamapalooza — 100,000 people cheering for the candidate in the Chicago night.

One forlorn TV was showing a hockey game. All these Republicans in their sport coats and red ties pretending to be into the National Hockey League, I thought. Of course, no one will be watching the NHL this year as the season has been canceled, not to mention pundits are predicting Election Night 2012 will be a real nail biter that could have Americans waiting late into the night before a winner is declared.

On that historic night four years ago, a guy on my left began an angry commentary on Obama. "Nobody knows this effin' guy. I'd rather see Hillary. Hillary would have beat McCain easily." I pointed out to him that Obama seemed to be doing just that. For what it is worth, that angry man predicted a dire four years.

With the TVs showing a huge crowd gathered in Times Square, the dude on my right said in a scornful voice, "They're handing out $10 bills, everybody shows." What can you say to that? I remained silent.

When ABC predicted New Mexico for Obama, a woman behind me said, "I don't like that boy." I turned to look at her. She was African-American.

I left the restaurant to go inside the ballroom. The suit-jacketed conservatives were thick and chaotic. Three guys came at me in overdrive. The short one had some kind of modern haircut — all angles. He was hyperventilating and saying to his buddy, "You looked like you were gonna beat the shit out of Shari Einhorn," referring to a local TV news reporter. They swerved past me, heading for the front desk.

I recognized a local candidate and asked for comment. He was losing big time. "See me after all the votes are counted," he said. I couldn't blame the guy. Later, he was gone.

It was barely 10 p.m. but incredibly one of the networks was already predicting the outcome for Obama. Back at the bar the crowd was growing desperate. Men and women wearing Republican campaign buttons began spilling booze and elbowing each other in the quadrennial melee.

I squeezed in next to a guy who said his name was Mike. "He's the Anti-Christ," Mike said and pointed at Obama's image on the TV screen. "If you read Revelations."

"I do," I told him.

"It's no longer the White House," Mike said and nodded at me conspiratorially.

The woman with Mike said, "He's not a man to run the country." She looked back at the TV and exclaimed, "Oh my God, what did we do." Mike said, "The Anti-Christ will be of Muslim background."

I assured him Obama was not Muslim. "No, no," Mike told me, "He was raised a Muslim in Indonesia," then added cryptically, "A person that has blinders on. So how did he put the blinders on the whole United States..." Mike was searching for the correct formulation. Finally he said, "He will fool us as if we had blinders on," and seemed satisfied with that phrase. That's when Mike asked me what I was doing there.

"I'm with the liberal media," I said.

His woman squealed, but Mike got a kick out of the announcement and told her, "That's good. I like that he is writing it all down. He is OK."

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