A rallygoer dances at President Obama’s victory party on Tuesday at McCormick Place. For more photos, check out our behind-the-scenes gallery.
Inside McCormick Place last night, features editor David Bernstein and editor-in-chief Elizabeth Fenner mixed with the crowd to watch the election results come in. Here are some highlights.
David: Good morning. Some night, huh?
Beth: I think I lost 10 pounds in water weight. That room was hotter than blazes. The crowd rolled with it though, right? What was the mood where you were?
David: Well, I got to McCormick Place around 8:30 p.m., which I figured was perfect timing. Wrong! I had to wait in that ridiculously long line that snaked through various convention rooms until I finally got a spot near the back. Where I was, the crowd was pumped up—dancing, singing, waving flags (and, more disgustingly, passing gas).
Beth: Ew. I had a more, shall we say, contained group around me. We all quickly bonded over our frantic desire to get more info about which states were falling to Obama, and the outcome of various congressional races. Thousands of smartphones in that one space seemed to be overtaxing the grid. “Anybody getting Politico?” “What about Daily Kos?” Weird to be at the white-hot center of the world’s attention and yet feeling, in some ways, more ignorant than the average American watching the election results from her sofa.
David: Yeah, you’re right. Even though I fully charged my cell ahead of time, it conked out pretty early. I felt strangely out of the loop.
Beth: We should point out that were we sandwiched in not with the fancy big-money donors—they had the stadium seats—but with the rank-and-file volunteers and supporters. Lotsa dancing around me, too. And babies! Really.
David: Absolutely. The Obama campaign used victory party tickets as an incentive to get volunteers to knock on doors, make phone calls, etc. Some of the folks I was standing with bused to Wisconsin and Iowa to help get out the vote. But as the night went on, even some of these die-hards were losing their steam, getting bored, etc.
Beth: I’ll say. There was a lively discussion going on around me about how long a candidate can take after every single network has proclaimed that you’ve lost before you should concede, already. By 10 p.m., Romney’s goose was cooked. So why did he wait until, what, midnight, to concede? Crowd not too happy about that.
David: Same discussion around me.
Beth: At least the tunes kept the crowd entertained. Lots of old-school funk tunes—some old Michael Jackson, some classic Stevie Wonder. When Bill Withers’ “Lovely Day” started blasting, a 60-something couple near me started dancing, twirling, with huge smiles on their faces. It was a lovely moment.
David: Yes, definitely great tunes. Some are Obama staples. “Keep On Pushing” by Curtis Mayfield & the Impressions was the song Obama chose to play when he took the podium at the Fleet Center in 2004 to deliver his keynote speech at the DNC. The speech that, basically, launched him to the presidency.
Beth: You were at Obama’s huge 2008 victory gathering, too. How did the mood, the crowd, the experience compare?
David: I’m sure a lot of people will be comparing 2008 to this year’s victory party. The 2008 party in Grant Park was, really, a once-in-a-lifetime event. The Obama team knew they would not be able to replicate that again this time around. The race was neck and neck, and victory was by no means a sure thing. They figured they should keep it smaller—also for security reasons. Even so, the atmosphere inside wasn’t so much different than in ‘08. While it was a much smaller crowd, the enthusiasm—and confidence—was just as visible. Even early on the room knew that Obama would win. There was little doubt. Which makes for a more fun party, of course.
Beth: Yep. It wasn’t until I left the convention center—and I left at 11:30 p.m., because the heat was just getting to be too much (I passed two teams of people carrying stretchers to tend to people who had, presumably, fainted)—that I properly realized what a hot ticket this was. A huge crowd had packed in just outside the velvet ropes at McCormick Place, pleading with me for my badge so that they could get inside. One guy even asked me if he could buy it from me.
David: One of the oddest scenes of the night, for me, was when a couple of paramedics rushed by with a stretcher to attend to someone. The strange part: the two paramedics were followed by two other paramedics—riding Segways!
Beth: I missed that. I’m sure the manufacturer of the Segway will be happy to know that he has sold two of those things, at least. Catch you next election?
David: Definitely, I’ll end by sharing my view from the victory party.
Photograph: Esther Kang