Dispatches From the Philadelphia Obama ‘Victory Party’

obama partyBy 11:30, the 300 or so people at the Obama party at the Warwick Hotel in Center City had completely lost it. In a good way. They’d been partying with live DJs—playing all your favorite wedding and Bar/t Mitzvah hits—since Obama had been declared the winner of Pennsylvania about two hours earlier.

Mayor Nutter spoke from a small stage in the hotel’s ball room and gave the most impassioned speech I’ve ever heard (from him). He referred to U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah (also present) as the “Education Congressman of the United States” and U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz (present) the “healthcare” congresswoman. Both won their respective races.

After chants of “four more years,” Nutter exclaimed that jobs are coming back and “Al Qaeda is on the run.” “It’s Obama time,” he yelled to the cheering crowd, then asked: “Do we got a DJ in this joint?” And the music really got going.

As Obama continued winning states, a woman sitting near the press tables motioned at her friend. “It’s about to be a party,” she said.

And it was. I knew because the DJs played, “Don’t Stop Believin.’”

Oregon and its seven electoral votes were called for Obama after 11 p.m. People cheered, as they’d been doing for each state the president won; but then the MSNBC projection screen told us what that also meant: Obama had won 274 electoral votes, and, therefore, had been re-elected. The DJs came on with “Tonight’s Gonna Be a Good Night.”

“It was God’s will,” Julianne Reynolds, 34, a learning instructor from Old City, said of Obama’s win. “And that’s speaking as someone who is not a Christian.”

Reynolds hung onto the idea that since Jesus was a loving and kind person, he would have supported another loving and kind person to be the leader of the free world. As for Romney: “People are smart enough to see through his bullshit,” she said. Her hopes for the next four years: A stronger gay agenda and “less drones.”

She stood near the bar in the back of the Westin Hotel’s ball room with Joshua Koplin, 35, of Center City. He used similar terms to describe presidential candidate Mitt Romney—especially as it happened with his supposed recent rise in the polls. “The last two months’ [polls] have been bullshit,” he said. The difference between this election night and the last one: “Last time we knew the results by 10:30.”

Obama volunteers Michael Roswell, 23, and Evelyn Strombom, 22, both of West Philly, said Nate Silver’s blog kept their spirits high over the last few months, even as independent polls and internals showed the race tightening.

Nate Silver, writer of the FiveThirtyEight blog at the New York Times, uses a weighted mathematical formula to predict the elections, based on polling data. His data has consistently shown Obama ahead this season, and likely to win the election by a healthy margin, in spite of the Republican Party and Romney campaign releasing internal polls to right-wing newspapers, who published them as news. Silver correctly predicted the 2008 and 2010 elections, and was correct once again last night.

Roswell, a science entertainer and Strombom, a biologist, are both graduates of Swathmore College and were similarly confident in Pennsylvania’s outcome. They’d been working on the Get Out The Vote effort in West Philadelphia “since day 1,” said Roswell. What’s the Get Out The Vote effort consist of? They worked as door-knockers and phone bankers. “We’ve worn every hat,” continued Roswell.

The night wore on and it became clear that it wasn’t just Barack Obama and the Democratic machine taking the night, but liberalism as an ideal. Elizabeth Warren won Ted Kennedy’s former seat in Massachusetts, over Scott Brown. Gay marriage was passed in Maryland and Maine (a similar law in Washington State is pending and an anti-gay marriage amendment was likely defeated in Minnesota.) Wisconsin elected the nation’s first openly-gay Senator. Recreational marijuana was legalized in Colorado. Every Senatorial candidate who made a “rape gaffe” (Richard Mourdoch in Indiana, Todd Akin in Missouri, Tom Smith in Pennsylvania) lost.

Thinking I’d catch the last El train, I left the party early. Leaving would have been a nightmare if I had an aversion to bumping into massive crowds of people. Outside, the streets were empty; a huge difference from four years earlier, when Center City was a party and car horns blasted.

The El had stopped running, so I got to play my favorite game at 15th and Market: “Hope the Market-Frankford Night Owl bus comes.” It did. But as the driver made the turn at Race Street and got on I-95, I realized that in my slight drunkenness I’d overlooked that this was the Express to the Frankford Transfer Center, not the local I’d been waiting for. The guy next to me offered to sell me a drug whose street name I did not recognize, so I shook my head no. He got up and moved on. On the way back, I sat in front of a woman whose face was covered in a pink scarf. She repeated, over and over again, “I’ll never take this bus again. Never again.” She dozed off a few times and leaned against the back of my neck at least once, and when I moved, she woke up and apologized. When she fell face-first on the floor of the bus, near Kensington and Allegheny, I joined the guy sitting across from us to lift her up by the elbows and plop her down on the inside seat so she wouldn’t hit the ground again. It felt about right.

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