Wednesday, November 4, 2009

One year ago...

...I was getting ready for history to be made. I had made the decision to participate with the Mississippi Democratic Party at their watch party at the Mississippi Telecom Center. I was bringing stuff to the center and making sure that the logistics were set. I wish I could say I was optimistic about my chances of winning, but that would have been a lie. I had to be a true competitor and appear confident, but the handwriting was on the wall in Mississippi.

Obama was behind in the polls here, which meant there would be no chance for me to win. The jury was still out on the Musgrove-Wicker race, so any push for me and Obama would help Musgrove. That was the only drama for the evening. Musgrove was setting up at the Cabot Lodge and most of the national media was situated there. The local media was setting up at the center because of the national implication of Obama's chances to win the overall election.

It is tough to admit, even after a year, that losing my state was inevitable, but it is what it is. There are just some places where progressive or moderate people cannot win elections. I guess when your biggest debate in your state is whether you should say "The South will rise again!" before a football game, you can only expect so much.

Nevertheless, the mere fact that, in my lifetime, an African-American was on the cusp of becoming President of the United States took away any personal pain and angst I may have been feeling about my own race. After 7pm, it was all over but the crying and celebrating. It was time to watch the numbers. When the first numbers started coming in nationally, you knew history was going to be made, but the shock came when CNN made the initial announcement that the Cochran-Fleming race was too close to call.

My phone nearly exploded. I even got an e-mail from NPR to be on All Things Considered the next morning. Could I have been wrong? Could a miracle happen? The possibility lasted until the numbers from the Gulf Coast started coming in. That was about 8:30 pm. The Coast voters were so lopsided on the GOP side that it took all of the wind out of any Mississippi miracle for myself and Musgrove. They called Cochran first, right after I had a preacher friend of mine offer a prayer to my supporters and family members in a room separate from the big party. Then came McCain and then Wicker. A clean sweep in the big three.

I was at peace with it and it was time for me to finally make my speech. I had put it off from the beginning of the program because if I was not going to win, I did not want to be on television. One last pep talk and then it was time to look at the big screen. As the camera focused on the huge crowd gathering at Grant Park in Chicago, I caught my father in the local crowd, hugging folks I have known for years and strangers alike. Obama was projected to be the winner of the election.

A year later, the euphoria and heartbreak have subsided. I got married and Obama got sworn in and received the Nobel Peace Prize. We are still at war in Iraq and Afghanistan. We are still in a recession. We still are debating health care reform. Mississippi is still the poorest state in the nation. The reality has set in that these next three years are going to be toughest our country has gone through in generations.

A year ago, hope and change was the mantra of the day. A year later, in Mississippi, neither one exists. We'll see what 2010 brings.