Get Adobe Flash player

Victory already?

October 2008


This spring, when it was already clear that Obama was going to win the Democratic nomination, I returned to my college alma mater for lunch with old friends.


Much had changed in the 25 years since I’d haunted the dining hall as an undergraduate. Gone was the serving line with white-jacketed staff filling plates to order, replaced by various self-service stations offering eclectic choices, catering to those with Levitical, Koranic, vegetarian, vegan, and nut- and gluten-allergy dietary restrictions. Amidst all this welcome deference to multicultural palates, paintings of dead white presidents, themselves alumni, still looked out over students. One could not help but wonder what they would think were they to see in person the polyglot, rainbow-hued lunch crowd (who were all these women?!), munching on mung bean sprouts and quaffing fragrant chai.


Mid-meal, I was happy to be greeted by Eddie, one of the dining hall staff I had known as a student. Eddie — now Ed — had been a shop steward for the local food service workers union, a remarkably progressive chapter that had explicitly welcomed openly gay people a decade before the university was pressured into doing the same. Ed, himself gay, was an unofficial liaison from the union to the gay students association, and he invited us to attend raucous union rallies aimed at winning a “living wage” from the wealthy, but tight-fisted, university. These high-energy events were conducted in English, Spanish, Portuguese, and Haitian Creole — not for warm ‘n’ fuzzy imagery, but out of genuine linguistic necessity. Among the demands bellowed (and they were loud!) in many tongues was dignity for gay employees and benefits for their families on par with those given hetero workers. At the time, we gay students were dealing with overt discrimination by — and cold shoulders from — university officials, so to be surrounded by hundreds of folks loudly demanding gay rights was inspirational.


“So whaddya think, Eddie,” I asked in reference to the then-still-tumultuous Democratic primaries. “How’s it going to turn out?”


A beaming — there is no other word to describe his face — Ed replied, “We’ve won!”


“What do you mean? You think Obama’s going to win in November?” I asked.


“Doesn’t matter,” Ed smiled.


Seeing the puzzled look on my face, Ed explained. He didn’t give a hoot about Obama’s warmed-over, neo-Democratic positions, nor did he put much stock in the potential inherent in a racially historic election. Instead, he was listening to the students.


“We’ve got a movement back,” Ed noted. “I don’t know where it’s headed, or where it’ll end up, but the kids are energized again.”


Indeed, something’s blowing in the wind.


Not only have there been record-setting increases in voter registration and participation, but more of those new voters are young people signing up and voting as Democrats. And not only are young voters, 18-25, participating at higher-than-ever rates, their demographic is now a larger slice of the electoral pie.


Of course, more voters, even if they’re Democratic and young, doesn’t guarantee political advance. But as Obama noted in his nomination acceptance speech, echoing Ed, change doesn’t come from Washington, it comes to Washington. At least, we can hope.


Pasted from <>


Leave a Reply