Watching History from the Sidelines

Last night I was really moved by the emotions of so many Americans who were overjoyed that our country has crossed a racial threshold by electing Barack Obama president. It occured to me that many African Americans have never felt fully a part of our national experience because so many doors were closed to them. Though Obama’s election does not magically make this a post-racial society, it is a huge psychological breakthrough, one that may help millions of Americans feel empowered and enfranchised at long last.

But I have to admit that I voted for John McCain. I went into the ballot box fully intending to vote for Obama, but in the end I decided that I am closer politically to McCain than Obama, and that, not race, not some sense of history in the making, should be my guiding principle. In a strange way, making the decision on purely political grounds made me realize that, for me, there is no place in politics for consideration of race. It should not be an issue ever again.

However, there is something to be said for being part of something big. My mother once expressed horror that my brother Danny and I said we would gladly have marched with Martin Luther King had we been old enough. It seems incomprehensible to me that people of my parents’ generation not only stood on the sidelines and watched but actually opposed the methods and goals of the Civil Rights movement.

When my grandchildren ask me about the watershed election of 2008, will I feel like I was a mere spectator in a historic moment? No, not really. To me, this was the first election wherein a minority candidate ran, and race was simply not an issue. By taking part in that kind of election, I was part of history, too.


12 Responses to Watching History from the Sidelines

  1. Chris says:

    I’ve never voted before, but I registered this year in large part because I wanted to be able to tell my kids that I voted against Proposition 8. I’m sorry that it won, but I have a clean conscience.

  2. MK says:

    I voted in my first election yesterday, and it felt good. (Obama FTW!) And for the record, race was not that important to me.

  3. runtu says:

    I wish I could have voted against 8. And MK, Grandpa would be appalled. 🙂

  4. MK says:

    lol i know

  5. Odell says:

    John you voted for McCain? Ugh?? I feel slightly sick to my stomach. Hard to reconcile.

  6. runtu says:

    What can I say? I’m apparently an anti-intellectual, religious nutlog, KKK-level hatemonger. And that’s what my friends say.

    I really agonized over this election. I agree with McCain on the issues, for the most part, but I thought McCain ran a crappy campaign.

  7. Runtu,

    Even though you didn’t vote for McCain, you are part of this historic moment. The fact that you voted against him because of political issues, rather than race is what makes his victory so momentous. If he had won simply as some sort of national reparation, this would be a sad day. The fact that he won because America saw him as the best candidate is what makes his a glorious day.

    So, you need not tell your grandchildren you sat on the sidelines. You would only have to say that if you had voted against him because of race. Since you did not. Be proud with all of us; this is your victory too.

  8. Whoops… I meant to say, “Even though you didn’t vote for Obama.” I really do need to proofread before submitting.

  9. sideon says:

    I respect your decision. I’ll even buy you that beer and still respect you in the morning. You’re a brave and honest man, Runtu.

    I wish Prop 8 hadn’t passed. The GLBT crowd is up in arms and it’s quite easy to understand how early Mormons were ran out of town. My hope is that the 18,000+ same-sex couples that are now second-class, “separate but equal” citizens sue the Mormon church for damages and make them not only bleed, but hemorrhage their tithing money. Hit them hard with the only God they truly worship. It couldn’t happen to a better bigoted institution.

  10. ElGuapo says:

    I voted for McCain too. In fact I’ll raise the ante here: I also voted for Mitt Romney in the primary. 🙂 With politics it’s all about picking the issues you care most about and forgiving a whole lot of others. I try not to get swept up in the mass movement mentality that hits at election time.

  11. Simeon says:

    I came very close to voting for McCain. In the end though, I felt that Obama offered a breath of fresh air.

    Funny thing about our system is that it really doesn’t matter too much who you vote for in California since it almost always goes Democrat. Same with Utah but the opposite. It’s never wrong to vote how you truly feel though.

  12. Fr. J. says:


    I voted for McCain, too. And so did 47 million Americans. I agree that it is a breakthrough to have a black President. But Obama is a travesty in his positions. History will prove that Obama was a mistake. We know next to nothing about him. And he was willing to promise the moon to get elected. I am very, very concerned. Not to mention abortion.

    Anyway, having the first black president is a wonderful thing, but having Obama is not.

    Also, dont listen to folks like sideon above. Intimidation wont work with Christians. We know what a martyr is.

    God Bless,
    Fr. J.

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