Tuesday, November 4, 2008

The Night Before E-Day in Chicago

Arrived yesterday morning in Chicago expecting to see a hustle and bustle of one of the world’s biggest cities, which is home to most likely the next president of the juggernaut of the United States. As I walked the streets, listened to conversations, I could not believe it, but I couldn’t tell that this was the base of Barack Obama’s campaign. I guess it may be just because Illinois is in the bag and the campaign is focused on the swing stages instead, but what I saw still took me by surprise.

I spent about five hours yesterday, walking the streets of Chicago to see if there was any excitement. I saw one businessman with an Obama button on his jacket quickly walking down the streets. I saw another man with a placard on both his front and back, detailing his lack of trust for Obama who seemed to have a resemblance to a man obsessed with saving one’s souls on judgment day. I guess not everyone is for Obama here in Illinois, but people didn’t seem to give this guy much attention..

Near the end of the evening and lack of signs of pre-election day life, I decide to take my chances and hike to Grant Park, the location of Obama’s E-day speech. As I walked though the park, I am sill amazed that the park seems unguarded, vast and empty. If it were not for the extensive amount of blue rows of porto-poties, it would have been any night in a big city. As I continued walking through the dark emptiness, I realize just how huge the park is. I realize that almost half of the park, the middle, is under construction and as such, the space will go unused.
I finally got to the one end of the park, and it was there that the excitement was…going to be. The only excitement at that moment was one block of media satellite trucks, at the end of the row was CBC (which did get a greeting from me and hence gave away my nationality). The event looks like a private yet intimate affair for 60 000, and a couple more thousand invited politicians and VIPs. The people that do not make it to this area, those without tickets, will experience the event outside in amazing weather fit to anoint a new era and its leader of change, watching the festivities on big screens and more likely just hearing I just like others in their homes.

But the experience will be going there, being around thousands of others, who, for a variety of reasons, support the Democratic party and its leader of yesterday and most likely its stander bearer for at least a decade. And during that time, those thousands of Americans and people from around the world who came to experience the man who they are putting much trust and faith in to deliver on his message of change and hope, will come together in what will be a goal that they hope will one day eventually last longer than a historic election night.

This election is historic – we will have a president who is African-American, but more importantly, someone who has reconciled the white and black vote and has recruited more first time voters and youth. Or we could (big long shot) will have a female vice president, who, many say, is less of a role model for women’s rights than her sex would have us believe. George Bush was able to connect with voters on the fact that if he could be president, anyone in the US could be president, and that he could relate to the “average Joe” and even be one of them. If Ms. Palin becomes VP, well I'll leave it others to note what that would say...

I came here yesterday with the expectations that the US is onto election fever that we only dream about. And clearly yesterday, my expectations of that fell a bit short. They are not dashed – the only day that matters is E-day and what happens that day as a result of it. The Obama craze that is taking over the US and other parts of the world, can be attributed to good old fashioned Get Out the Vote efforts and political organization and fundraising, but more importantly, using those efforts with a little bit of creativity and the willingness to do those tried, tested and true efforts in a more risky, yet calculated way. And it’s also been a powerful example of a campaign that’s heavily tapped into grassroots involvement that Liberals could learn from.

As I ended my night, I snuck into a 7-11 for a late snack. At the cashier, there are a handful of Obama buttons and small florescent Obama posters for sale than the average button or poster. Ahh…at least some things don’t change with the smell of new change – good old American capitalism and free markets.

I’ll post some photos later from the scene of Grant Park from last night (and any photos I get tonight), so come back here later today for my thoughts throughout the day here in Chicago as “The Chase for Change, 2008” series finally concludes with the E-Day results and a hopeful victory speech for the ages…. I expect a MUCH larger crowd that the handful of people I saw last night to say the least.

History will be made today no doubt about that. America and the world badly need change after 8 disastrous years and it can't come soon ehough.

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