The View from Harlem

The Corner’s Mike Potemra.

The View from Harlem

It happened, almost too quickly, what everyone was waiting for. Is it really possible to sneak up on a crowd of many thousands of people? At 11 PM, the big-screen TV at the corner of 125th Street and Adam Clayton Powell Boulevard in Harlem went very briefly silent, and blank; and then a graphic silently popped up, “Barack Obama Elected 44th President.” It seemed to take forever for the crowd’s resulting murmur to coalesce into a shout, and then a roar. This was not a wish or a test pattern, this was it.

The scene was Congressman Charlie Rangel’s block party celebrating the election of Barack Obama. People of all races and ages were there on this mild Manhattan evening, and they were in a festive mood even before the big news was announced. American flags abounded; a platform preacher repeated “God bless America, God bless America.”

Why was I, a John McCain voter, there? A bit of personal history. I was born in 1964, and on the day I was born the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Prince Edward County in Virginia had to reopen its public schools. The county had closed the schools because they decided it was better to have no public schools at all than to have to admit black kids into them. Here we are, just 44 years later, with an African-American president, a president elected with the electoral votes of that very same Commonwealth of Virginia.

I voted for John McCain because I admire him immensely as a person, and agree with him on many more issues than I do with Senator Obama. And I ask a rhetorical question: Can we McCain voters, without embarrassment, shed a tear of patriotic joy about the historic significance of what just happened? And I offer a short, rhetorical answer.

Yes, we can.

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