Stepping Forward – An election night street party in Seattle
“That’s it. Obama won Ohio. It’s over” I said, grabbing a plate of fake crab sushi off the conveyer.
“It’s over?” my girlfriend asked, cocking her head to the side. “Doesn’t Ohio take a while before they figure out who wins?” “Not when you’re this far ahead. It’s over, no more Rmoney jokes”.
We finish our last plates and ask our waitress for a check. She asks if Obama really did win. I reply that it’s going to be a blowout, maybe almost as much as 2008. She says that that’s wonderful, she was really worried Romney would win.
Paying the check, I walk my girlfriend back to our apartment. She bids me goodnight, and I pull out my camera and start walking around Capitol Hill. There are groups of people here and there, some with Uncle Sam hats, others with red white and blue skirts or pants. A group here and there starts yelling, and then stops, as if realizing how absurd the whole thing is. A jeep with speakers on top blares the good news to people.
I walk by a group of buskers playing folk music for no one in particular. People smoke pot in the shadows as discretely as they can. I check my phone. I-502: passed. R-74: passed. You’ll be able to smoke pot during your gay honeymoon, and you’ll likely have healthcare after you pull a muscle consummating the union.
Circling from Pike to Cal Anderson park, down to Linda’s tavern, I don’t see anyone taking the streets the way they did in 2008. I can hardly believe it. Capitol Hill went nuts after the last presidential election. This time they get Obamaphones made out of married gay hemp. How can people possibly contain themselves?
I go back north, then I hear people yelling and not stopping. My camera bag goes to the ground as I assemble it and test it’s settings. Rushing forward I see the crowd now in the streets, jumping up and down, hugging and kissing. People start chanting “O-BA-MA” and “U-S-A”.
Half a block north the jeep with speakers had found its audience. It’s playing dance music, stopping every few minutes to ask the crowd what they think of Obama, or legal weed, or gay marriage. One person climbs onto the jeep and starts dancing. They jump into the mass of people, only to be followed by others. This of course eventually breaks both the front bumper and windshield of the jeep. Fortunately the police don’t seem interesting in breaking up this dance party because of property damage.
Fireworks and some smoke bombs are fired off. I start thinking of the sound of broken windows at the federal building on mayday, only to have someone ask me to get a shot of their friends. I point my camera them, they turn to each other and start kissing.
A girl with a flag with Obama’s face on it starts jumping around, showing it to the crowd. Young people start chanting four more years, and one starts yelling at the top of his lungs, arms stretched to the night sky.
A lady tries to sell me some “Obama socks”. I politely decline. Shortly my camera and I will be covered in champagne. A girl jumps onto the jeep and starts a strip tease. The MC at this point has become verbally insistent that people stay off the jeep and don’t spray alcohol at it. He’s taking money from the crowd to pay for the broken bumper and window, but he might have done better if he teamed up with the sock lady.
Close to eleven Obama makes his acceptance speech, and our mobile DJ is playing a stream of it from his laptop. Obama is talking about the American dream in a way that few others can, partially because he’s the living embodiment of it. A world where we used to believe that anyone could make it. And for a few hours the people in the streets really did.