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Election Analysis From My Mother

For the 19th time in her life, Estelle Meyerson, my 94-year-old mother, voted for president yesterday. This was the first time she had to use a walker, though it is hardly an exotic contraption in the Leisure World community in suburban Los Angeles where she lives. This was also the first time she’d voted for an African American for president, though she had voted multiple times for African American Tom Bradley for both mayor of L.A. and governor of California.

But this was the first time I can recall that she called me to marvel at an election result. At least, to marvel positively. When Ronald Reagan was elected president, she called me to marvel negatively. So, too, come to think of it, when George W. Bush was elected, and re-elected. The opportunities for positive marveling have been scarce in recent decades, and it wasn’t obvious that my mom would have such an opportunity again. Last night, she made the most of it.

My mother grew up in Tennessee -- born in Memphis, raised in Nashville. The first election she can remember, in 1928, pitted Herbert Hoover against Al Smith, and when she called last night, she recalled how Smith’s Catholicism alarmed many of her neighbors: “What’s going to happen if we elect a Roman Catholic?” she remembered one neighbor worrying. The thought of an African-American president, of course, simply hadn’t occurred to anyone.

Always a lefty, my mother had a rocky time of it in Nashville schools, where she argued with her history teachers about President Lincoln (she was pro, they were con), among many other things. Soon after she graduated high school, she got as far away from the South as she possibly could: She moved to New York, where Lincoln wasn’t an object of much controversy any more, and where she worked to support the endeavors of the bi-racial Southern Tenant Farmers' Union.

Going through last night’s returns, she noted, Tennessee had let her down again, though she was hardly surprised. She was surprised that Barack Obama had carried Virginia, a miracle she partly attributed to the fact that two of her nieces live there. Mainly, she called to marvel that she’d outlived so much of the hatred that had defined the America in which she’d grown up. As she put it: “This is the kind of election night I never thought I’d see."

By Harold Meyerson  | November 5, 2008; 7:50 AM ET
Categories:  Meyerson  | Tags:  Harold Meyerson  
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Now BHO and the Democrats are in the driver's seat. What will happen to GW, who started a war on false pretenses, and GWs imperial presidency - internal wire-tapping, rendition, Gitmo, using the White House as RNC headquarters, firing and hiring of US Attorneys on purely political basis, what will happen to Cheney who felt he was outside the executive branch. Will BHO renounce GW legacy of imperial presidency under the guise of a nation at war, or will he follow the Constitution?

This slogan of Change met nothing to me because BHO never addressed these issues. I imagine that Change never met anything but marketing to the Democrats, anyway. God Help us, we elected Al Sharpton wannabe to the POTUS.

Posted by: daavina | November 5, 2008 8:20 AM | Report abuse

Senator Obama did address the issues by saying, "If you run a car into a ditch, it does nobody any good trying to find out who to blame for driving that car into the ditch. It's already there." (Or something to that effect.)

The problems of this magnitude can only be dealt with by prioritizing the factors. A criminal investigation would have tied up time and energy better spent on fixing the problems. This is why Speaker Pelosi made it clear that impeaching President Bush was not on their agenda; there were bigger things to worry about. Remember the Monica Lewinsky scandal? That was a gigantic waste of time.

It's easy to be cynical where politics is concerned. But if you grow up and study the history of progressive politics in this country, the very fact that Obama made it this far is validation of the change that has captured the nation.

Posted by: omarlatiri | November 5, 2008 9:21 AM | Report abuse

The comments of daavina are important. Do we ever go after the high and mighty politicians in this country, or are they too big to punish? Obama may take control and he may run a constitutional regime, but if there is no punishment of the Bush Gang then there will be no second thoughts for those people who believe in an imperial presidency--they will be waiting for the next election.

If an accountant steals from the company they are not just fired, are they?

Posted by: rusty3 | November 5, 2008 1:09 PM | Report abuse


Are you still trying to spread the smallness of your mind across an abyss of intelligence that really doesn't feel you?

Honey- Obama is your president like it or not. You can always go to your native country if you don't like America.
If you are for "COUNTRY FIRST" - get with the program and put America on your mind. DAAVINA FIRST is your there you are. At the top of an ever crumbling mountain of ignorance. Enjoy your spoils!

Posted by: lioness_ohyes | November 5, 2008 1:17 PM | Report abuse

Trust G.W. and Friends will have their day and they will have to atone for the ills they caused- but as "omarlatiri" said- we got bigger fish to fry RIGHT NOW.

Attempting to impeach Clinton on his PERSONAL BUSINESS was such a waste it should serve as a lesson in futility for all to remember. Clinton didn't offend America- G.W. offended "THE WORLD" and defiled America's good name and standing. The election of our new Commander In Chief; TRUST that's one bitter pill and it is to be chewed and swallowed sans water.

"daavina" who's candidate lost is now attempting to cast the shadow of non-activity on a man who won't take office until 2009....DAAVINA FIRST on every post TODAY because DAAVINA is viewing this as a personal loss. Way to put America first- and in such a mature manner. You're representing for the GOP in find fashion.

Posted by: lioness_ohyes | November 5, 2008 1:36 PM | Report abuse

If nothing changes, nothing changes.
PLEASE start with yourself.

Why do you keep going on and on about what was or wasn't done? THE ELECTION IS OVER and YOu need to GET OVER IT.

Posted by: lioness_ohyes | November 5, 2008 1:38 PM | Report abuse

My wife God bless her, dragged me to an Obama rally on the campus of Georgia Tech in the early fall of 2007 little did we know we were witnessing the making of a President, Barack Obama was confident,eloquent,and optimistic. I got interviewed by the NBC evening news which was aired later that saturday evening we even tivo'd it for posterity but I guess what made me believe in Pres.-elect Barack Obama was the youth and diversity of the crowd that had gathered to hear him speak almost one hundred thousand people and the electricity in the crowd before he took the stage,that was a defining moment for me my wife was already sold on this young man and now history.

Posted by: dargregmag | November 5, 2008 1:56 PM | Report abuse

Daavina - Obama has not even taken the oath of office yet. While it is true that GWBush and his henchman Cheyney as well as Rove et al deserve to be punished - who is going to do it?
America is polarized now! It started with the Republicans trying to bury Bill Clinton and we just survived a political campaign season where the VP candidate and to a lesser extent the Pres candidate on the Republican side tried to divide we the people further - into a have/havenot; A real America v a fake america or a big/small; religious/nonreligious Country.
Barak is everyone's President! He will need to work with Republicans to accomplish the wants and needs of the people. He has shown that he can do this.
Don't worry, eventually, Bush and his cabal will have their day - to a certain extent, the loss of McCain can be laid at Bush's feet.
Let's get together and support America. There will always be fronts where people disagree - it is the people who try to see both sides and come up with compromises that get things done.
Mr. Meyerson - I loved the account of your Mom. My Dad will be 94 this March. He & I always cancel each other out so he was a McCain voter. But, I love to listen to him talk. His comment was, "Well, the colored boy won - he's a smart man, that one". In his Republican heart that was high praise indeed for Obama.

Posted by: gjkbear | November 5, 2008 1:58 PM | Report abuse

Is your Mother where you got your STUNNING good looks from Meyerson? Your face has all the visual appeal of a used litter box. 8-)

Posted by: lt1z28 | November 5, 2008 3:24 PM | Report abuse

Good for her! I hope that I am still voting, and able to carry on a lucid conversation about it, when I am 94. She sounds like quite a remarkable woman.

Posted by: pdech | November 5, 2008 3:49 PM | Report abuse

Your mother and I would get along pretty well. I too voted for the black man, and I think that he's going to be okay, but in all honesty, with the other guy openly aligned with Bush II, I would have voted for the devil Satan against him.
For my folks who lost their home in Hoover's depression, presidential politics was the simplest of matters; vote for FDR, go home and listen to the radio to make sure he won, then nothing further for another four years. If he were still alive and running, they, were they also still alive, would still be voting for him.

I can't help thinking that the most hopelessly ignorant and amoral President in our history has just put the Democrats into the White House for the next twenty years; precisely as Hoover did in '32.

Posted by: winger1 | November 5, 2008 5:39 PM | Report abuse

My mom is only 83, a lefty who still regrets voting for Wallace (Henry) because it almost elected Dewey. She was a disgruntled HRC supporter who was undecided on the race until McCain chose Palin, at which point she joined me as a fervent supporter of Obama. Part of the fun of the campaign has been seeing it through my mom's eyes. She always taught me to look beyond people's skin color and judge the person. Getting to hear her celebrate last night was terrific.
Thanks for sharing your story.

Posted by: nymet | November 5, 2008 6:00 PM | Report abuse

my mother, who turned 82 this year, switched parties in January in order to be able to vote for Obama in our state's caucus, because, as she said "this is a historic election, and I want to be part of putting him in the White House!" she goes to bed early, so she was not awake to watch the election results last night, and was afraid to turn on the TV this morning. when I dropped in on her, she was laughing, and dancing, and beaming like a teenager in love. my beautiful, white, Italian mother remembers her childhood in the South, when blacks weren't allowed in town after dark, when they could only get medical care surreptitiously after hours from complicit doctors, and public conveniences were labeled by skin color. "he is *my* president," she said, "because we both are AMERICANS!"

Posted by: bajacalla | November 5, 2008 7:06 PM | Report abuse

Sorry to say that for the LGBT community here in CA there's not a whole lot of Hope today. After supporting Obama since the fall of last year, contributing, blogging, phoning and volunteering imagine my surprise when in the midst of my joy at his election I awoke this morning to find that 83% of African Americans in CA voted for Prop 8. Equality? Not for everyone... I feel complicit as my campaigning here to get a big turnout indirectly helped turn out the new discriminators. I'm heartsick that this was fired up from the pulpits, using misleading arguments fed to the AA community by the yes on 8 forces funded by right wing out of towners, including 40% from the Mormon church. Ironic, eh? I don't know whether to laugh or cry today. I guess I'll think more carefully before getting politically involved again.

Posted by: Omyobama | November 5, 2008 7:45 PM | Report abuse

Emmanuel is a tough cookie that gets the job done. I hope he accepts. I would like to see Buffet as Fed Reserve chairman and Bloomberg as SEC chief. Commerce, treasury and the rest of the economic team should be gleaned from the Clinton camp. An intellectual like
Bill Bradley could be banking chairman. Hagel, Powell, Nunn, Shinseki, are all good for NSA. Powell may not want to serve which would make Richardson a good choice for Secy of State. Inroads in the Spanish speaking and Portuguese South and Central America probably will be made. Looking at the people on his economic summit, I have faith in Obama's ability to choose his staff.

Posted by: jameschirico | November 5, 2008 8:00 PM | Report abuse

Ohmyobama - I looked for the results of prop 8. Sorry that it turned out so negatively for you. Please don't think it was all because the African Americans voted for it because they came out to vote for Obama. There are a lot of prejudices out there and GLBTQ is now at the top of the list. If it is one thing that stirs the Christian hordes up it is abortion and the idea that two people of the same sex might love each other. We lost this same battle here in TX also and I was so angry and I am straight. People just seem to have this hangup on anything that has to do with sex and bodily functions.
There is always hope. We just have to keep working on people. Know that there are people who do care about your rights.

Posted by: gjkbear | November 5, 2008 8:30 PM | Report abuse

"If you run a car into a ditch, it does nobody any good trying to find out who to blame for driving that car into the ditch. It's already there."

Running along that analogy, if it's my car, I'd like to know who drove it into a ditch. I'd prefer that person not get to drive it again.

Posted by: fake1 | November 8, 2008 2:07 PM | Report abuse

You know, Bess Meyerson has always been a classy ex-Miss America. But I'd pleasantly surprised she has found a good job writing articles for the Washington Post.

Although I must admit based on the picture, she has not aged particularly well. But she's not a bad writer.

Ms. Meyerson, thank you for the fond memories! Electrolysis is your friend though for that beard.

Posted by: Ombudsman1 | November 10, 2008 10:44 PM | Report abuse

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