Barack Obama cranked on Tuesday, so we're cranked. And he took Florida too.
Wowsa! It's history, baby!
But then we looked more closely at the results and, well, the Diaz-Balart brothers proved that while negative campaigning didn't work across the nation, South Florida lapped it up. Miami Dade College lost its bid to try to raise more money. And incumbents such as Clerk of Courts Harvey Ruvin, state Rep. Luis Garcia, and likely property appraiser Gwen Margolis (who's not an incumbent but might as well be) almost all were returned to office.
Then there's the anti-civil rights domestic partner ban, which we call the homophobia amendment to the state constitution. It lost in a close race. "I'm going to walk the streets thinking, You voted against me," said volunteer Maria Muñoz at a dirge-like gathering at the Soyka complex in northeast Miami. "A lot of people are hurting right now."
But at the beginning of the day, things looked dandy. By 6:45 a.m., the line curled around the block at a precinct in downtown Miami Shores. Even early arrivals took a couple of hours to vote and a guy named Ed brought a chair because, he said, "I had knee surgery and I figured I'd need to sit down during the wait."
A well-known local blogger named Alex forecasted an Obama victory: "Obama and the Democrats will allow more trips and money to families [in Cuba]," he said. "That will hurt Raul Castro in the long run."
A couple dozen miles southwest at the Kendall Branch Library, the early morning was less crowded. Almost 40 percent of the state voted early, so what was left? Ruth Zalph, an elderly Obama campaigner, handed out flyers with bold "No On 2" messages. Yet she wanted to talk about the presidency. "I support Obama for so many reasons: An end to the war in Iraq. A way to improve our status around the world. To stop the outsourcing of jobs. And the deregulation of Wall Street."
South Beach was, well, South Beach. There were lines there at noon, when people wake up in this part of town. Nearly 100 voters waited at the fire station on Jefferson Avenue, including a pony-tailed professor filling in a crossword puzzle. One of them was a poll deputy who chewed on a chicken bone and hollered, "H through O! H through O!" Chunks of chicken flew from her mouth. "Ya'll know your last names, don't you? Get in line! H through O!" Then: "Ya'll gonna vote for the right person?"
"The right person?" a twentysomething woman whispered. "She's not supposed to say that."
Up the street at the library on 75th and Collins, Jordan Katz waved a "Communists for Obama" sign while Terry Carpenter tried to attract votes for Obama across the street. "[Carpenter] is stupid enough to think I'm on his side," said Dave Crystal. "He doesn't realize that my sign is facetious. A lot of these Obama idiots are like that."
Carpenter responded, "I'm over it, is all. I'm over the war and the recession and George Bush and discrimination against gays. I'm over all of it."
The day at the polls ended up at Versailles, in Little Havana, where Elian Misael, dressed head-to-toe in black, with fingernails painted black, brought something different to Election Day. "No Obama! No McCain!" he screamed before waving a homeless-guy-quality cardboard sign that said in Spanish, "No Obama/McCain! Vote for the President of the Galaxy, The Emperor."
That, apparently, would be Misael.
"I am the emperor of the galaxy," he explained.
By evening, McCain supporters were clustered around a small projection screen inside their headquarters, and Raquel Hernandez, a short 27-year-old from Miami Lakes, was optimistic in a Republican sort of way. "I don't think we're going to know [who wins] tonight. It's going to be 2000 all over again."
When Obama was finally announced the president around 11 p.m., feet stomped on the wooden floor and a group of four young men linked arms and danced in a circle at a party atop the swank Gansevoort Hotel. Beers went for $9.
At NW 54th Street and Second Avenue, Haitians young and old danced in the streets. Old women in sundresses shook cowbells, and teenagers on bicycles raced recklessly around moving cars. An elderly white-bearded man stood hunched in the middle of the crawling traffic and, grunting loudly, thrust a sign with a photo of Obama at motorists. Caribbean music and rap clashed with the constant horn-jamming.
The corner of NW 62nd Street and Seventh Avenue was wilder. A chaotic four-way parade of people driving with doors flung open passed, as everyone screamed, "Obama!" Many of the drivers hung completely out of their car doors, controlling their steering wheels with a finger, and the pedals with a sneaker toe.
At PS14, a dive bar on the fringes of downtown Miami, a group of 20 or so hipsters took a shot to celebrate and then booked when McCain mentioned Sarah Palin in his speech. "Fuck you!" someone said. Then the DJ blasted Ray Charles's "Hit the Road Jack." People giggled. "Doesn't it feel great?" someone exclaimed.
But all was not well for the liberals, of course. At Amendment 2 headquarters, Save Dade Director CJ Ortuño acknowledged the public had voted to discriminate against gays and some others. "It's going to be challenged," he said. "We're going to try to detoxify the atmosphere of homophobia.... One thing were concerned about is that gay and lesbian travelers won't see Florida as a gay-friendly place. Tourism is rooted in tolerance and acceptance." Then he unveiled his plan: Persuade more cities to provide domestic partnership benefits, and then watch as corporations follow. "It worked for the civil rights movement," he said.
Do you hear this, Barack Obama?
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