Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Times Square, Election Night

So, I think I might have mentioned that I went down to Times Square on the night of the Election, just after the election was called for Obama at around 11pm EST. I brought my camera, and thought I'd share a few photos of the occasion.

This is Rockefeller Center. MSNBC and NBC put on an election night extravanganza each presidential cycle. Both shows broadcast on large flatscreen TVs. And they also have a wonderful visual way of displaying where things stand. Each candidate gets a window washing cart of their own color, that hangs from Rockefeller Center.

And as the candidates gains electoral college delegates, their carts slowly move up Rockefeller Center, headed toward a large banner declaring "270" (i.e. the delegates needed to clinch the presidency).

This might seem pretty primitive, but it had a lot of punch. Often the carts would begin moving before either the TV commentators announced any changes. So you wouldn't know how much things were going to change, or what states had come in. At one point Obama gained something like 70 or 80 delegates, before anything was announced on TV. The largely Obama crowd went wild.

I have to say, it was funny being down there watching MSNBC. As I might have mentioned in a previous post, at about 8:03 pm, with Obama down 3 delegates to 10, the pundits were wondering if the election had brought in a new liberal era. An hour later, with Obama up something like 13 to 10, they were indicating the end of Republican leadership. And at 9:30, when Obama still hadn't captured any swing states, they were asking David Axelrod whether the 50 state strategy had been a mistake. The rollercoaster they were on was quite a ride. And the lot of us, looking up at the standings, waiting, waiting, waiting -- I don't know, to me it felt like Christmas Eve. I'm coming home from my Grandmother's house in Chicago, the car is cold and the windows fogged over. My dad has on the 1950s music he likes, which he always played on the way home from Grandma's, and then they change the station and the announcer is talking about where Santa is right now. And my brother and sisters and I rush to the back window trying to see Rudolph's nose.

At Rockefeller Center it was that sort of baited-breath, fantastic, magical, and to some extent fictional excitement.

Times Square, later, had in some ways more of the same. Not the incredibly skewed reporting, but the sense of looking into the sky with wonder.

The people are gated in because Times Square was just jampacked with people yelling, screaming, cheering. We were wandering up and down the streets, as the taxis drove by honking, and the cops herded us onto the sidewalks through gates (and a lot of glowering).

Two things struck me out there. One was the taxi drivers, who drove past over and over again, honking and cheering out their windows. Not a single one was from the United States, and they cheered with a sense of relief that was palpable. Many people out there felt similarly, but there was a difference in quality about the taxi drivers. I've thought about them quite a bit since the election. I wonder if it wasn't that many of them are not citizens, cannot vote. So all they have been able to do these last years is watch and see what those of us who can vote decide, knowing that our decision will have huge impacts for them and for their countries. And when Obama was elected, they could finally show their cards, if you will, express their own opinions with honesty and freedom. It's like the vote gave them their voices back.

The other thing that struck me again and again was the faces. Both in Times Square and at Rockefeller Center, people looking up, their desires and dreams writ large in their expressions. Quite moving.

I like this one most of all. A small woman, unseen by those around her, looking up into a new world.

At the end of Obama's speech I went back home to my community. The cheers continued to echo in the distance all around lower Manhattan for quite some time.


Ann said...

Your photography is amazing. I too love the shot of the woman looking up. Great photos.


Jim McDermott, SJ said...

Thanks, Ann! Glad you liked them.