Long lines of voters, cheering Obama supporters along roads and many happy Americans that say they have made history. Shortly, this was the spirit that made Election Day 2008 a historical day for the United States and the world. How different is it now, four years later. Today Chicago was a dull and grey city, with none of the enthusiasm that was there, just four years ago.
We Dutch journalists expected long lines and great smiles today. Yes, we where even hoping for a great celebration, but it turned out very different. The weather was cold and wet, so not many people must have had the drive to walk outside and wait in the rain. Also, a lot of voters have voted early, so today there weren’t any big lines. It seemed just an ordinary working day, with nothing much going on. President Obama was in town, supporting his volunteers and waiting for the first results to come in from states like New Hampshire and Maine.
I decided to call my friend Pat Duncan, who lives in swing state Ohio. Maybe he could tell me something about voting in his hometown Norwood. ‘Kemal, I had a totally different experience today than four years ago. In 2008, the line at the polling office in my neighborhood was far longer and way more diverse,’ he told me. The crowd was also different. ‘Four years ago, there where lots of youngsters and African American voters, seventy percent at least. Today most of them did not show up. It was a weird experience for me. Why didn’t they vote?’ Pat himself voted for Obama in the last election. ‘This year I voted for real change, so I’ve voted for Mitt Romney.’
After the phone call, we cruised trough Chicago to find voters: from Chinatown to Greektown and from downtown to Andersonville. No lines, no voters, no news in sight. So we drove up to McCormick Place, the big convention center at the shore of Lake Michigan, where all the action would be going on. Here we found hundreds of journalists from all over the world for president Obama’s election party. It truly was and is a special experience.
For now I am writing my piece in one of the halls, with at least two hundred colleagues around me. Soon the first guests will arrive and the results will come in. It’s going to be a special election night.