I have been to a lot of victory rallies in thirty years as a political reporter, but never have I seen so many people in tears when their side won. Such was the case in Los Angeles Tuesday night. Yes, people were cheering wildly when California put Obama over the top; but the number of people, particularly African-American voters, who were crying took me by surprise.
I was also surprised to see a fair number of children in the packed Century Plaza ballroom. Andre Herndon, editor of the “Wave,” in Los Angeles, was there with his two-year-old son, Marley.
“I never thought I’d see a black President in my lifetime,” Andre Herndon admitted. Herndon, who is 35, also explained his previous pessimism. “A lot of times, as an African-American, you feel like the deck is stacked against you. This is a complete shift,” he said.
Two-year-old Marley seemed tired and not quite sure what to make of his surroundings, as he wrapped his arms around his dad’s neck (photo above). But Andre said he would teach his son the lessons of this night some day. “It seems now I can tell him you can achieve anything in this country,” Herndon said. He added that he has another child on the way.
African-Americans voted in huge numbers for Obama Tuesday, 96 percent to 4 percent for McCain. But that’s no surprise. Democratic Presidential candidates usually win by that margin among black voters. The real surprise was the Hispanic vote, which went 66 percent for Obama to 34 percent for McCain. Republicans usually do much better with the Latino vote, with George W. Bush having received 45 percent of this key and growing group.
While Obama did well with minority voters, he held his own with white voters, achieving 43 percent. That’s on par with John Kerry’s 41 percent in 2004, and Al Gore’s 42 percent in 2000.
On CNN, former Education Secretary Bill Bennett rightly stated that there was too much press on potentially conflicted racial politics. “Some ‘Bradley effect!' The country’s grown up,” Bennett said. “We have just achieved an incredible milestone that the world needs to recognize.”
The “Bradley effect” is the phenomenon whereby white voters tell pollsters they are voting for a black candidate, even though they have no such intention, the idea being that they don’t want to be labeled racist by the pollsters or by anyone else. Such polling had former Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley, an African-American, well ahead in his race for Governor of California. Yet, he lost. The racially inaccurate polling has come to be known as the “Bradley effect.”
Many feared it would happen to Obama. It did not. There wasn’t even a hint of it.
That was good news to Stephanie Wilkinson. She stood crying in the back of the Hyatt Regency ballroom. Wilkinson, who is 50, could barely speak to me. “I’m so choked up,” she said. Wilkinson believes Obama’s election will go a long way to heal racial divisions from generations ago. “I am thinking about my grandparents and ancestors. This means everything to me. He really did something. The fact that he had a black father and white mother means people had to listen to both sides,” she said.
As with many reporters, online input to my stories has become crucial this year, especially in the age of “new media.”
My old friend and coworker Marc Martinez also weighed in by writing on my “Facebook” page: "As I watched Barack's speech tonight with my three-year-old daughter asleep on my lap and my soon to be nine-year-old son watching, I couldn't help imagining my parents back in 1961 with their three little children in the living room of their house in Baldwin Park, California, with ‘Viva Kennedy’ placards and posters, and wondering if this is perhaps exactly how they felt when they knew they were witnessing a watershed event. I wish I could ask them."
I heard many similar comments throughout the yearlong campaign, from its beginnings at the Iowa Caucuses in January to the night of Obama’s nomination acceptance speech in Denver in late August.
I will keep writing daily about this election and politics overall. Keep coming back to www.MarkCurtisMedia.com.