Hopes affirmed for Obama boosters

Staff writer, CT Post

Article Last Updated: 11/05/2008 11:42:39 PM EST

Bleary-eyed supporters of Barack Obama were in a giddy, hopeful mood as they made their way to work in the city's downtown Wednesday morning.

Most had stayed up until midnight, hopeful for a history-making victory by the Democrat in the presidential contest, while at the same time fearing that John McCain would somehow deliver on his promise to score a come-from-behind win.

"I feel it's a wonderful, historical event. It's time for a change," said a woman who identified herself only as Jenee J., adding that she had campaigned door-to-door in Fairfield, canvassing for Obama, but often getting a frosty reception in that town's well-heeled neighborhoods. "We were out on Redding Road, and people would drive past and say, 'Get out of here. You don't belong here' -- that type of thing. But I'm OK with that. We pulled it out."

"I love Obama. I hope he changes the world," said Wallace Stovall of Park Avenue.

Osman Shabazz was busy collecting souvenirs of the historic event. He had an "Obama-Himes" yard sign under his arm and a couple of daily newspapers. "It's a repudiation of the Republican slime machine of 'divide and conquer.' But it's a testimony to how great America is," he said. "It also reflects well on white Americans, because without their support, and their humanity, this would never have happened. This shows that America has made good on its promise."

"I was excited that Obama won, and never had been excited about any election in the past, said Grailin Morales, a young woman outside the Fairfield County Courthouse.

"I never had it so good," said Mike Doyle of Bridgeport, a huge smile on his face. "This erases the mark that 2000 left on all of us when they stole the election," he said, referring to the contested election victory by George W. Bush. "This time, we took it right back from them. We went right into the belly of the beast and beat them."

"I'm thrilled. I have kids, and it's wonderful for them," said his friend Sue Vanscoy.

"I was really happy that a lot of people in my age bracket -- I'm 25 -- turned out and voted," said Mike Hands of New Haven as he waited on the New York-bound platform at the Bridgeport Railroad Station.

"I woke up with both pride and amazement," said Carl Horton, of Bridgeport, who ran for mayor of Bridgeport in 2003. "I've lived in Bridgeport for 10 years and I'm originally from Maryland. Once I saw Virginia go blue [or Democratic], I just knew that he had it," he said.

Political science and history experts agreed that Nov. 4, 2008, is indeed a date that will be remembered for centuries to come.

"In a much more heartfelt way, the country really has progressed a great deal since the Civil Rights Act was passed in 1964," said Fairfield University history professor Yohuru Williams. "It's a tremendous moment for us as a nation -- whites, blacks and every shade in between. Certainly, this is a triumph of American education in building a color-blind democracy. We all look at America a little differently this morning."

But, "not to take anything away from Obama," he added, Democratic candidates this year benefited from a "perfect storm" of the nation's economic meltdown, an unpopular war and McCain's vice presidential pick, Sarah Palin, who proved unpopular with voters outside of the GOP's conservative base.

"Anytime a barrier is broken, it marks the beginning of a shift of the consciousness of the country," said Scott McLean, a Quinnipiac University professor of political science. "I don't think it means that we have transcended race. If you look at the exit polls, it was still a close election, and white men and white women still supporting McCain. But Obama did get the Latino vote, which John Kerry couldn't do four years ago."

He said that among electoral groups that are growing -- young voters, Latinos and people who don't regularly go to church -- Obama won in a big way.

"The people that McCain was depending on, the fervent worshipers and white men, were so 20th century," McLean said. "Relying on the Republican base was a wrong-headed strategy for the McCain campaign."

McClean noted that with campaign innovations such as YouTube and the Internet, candidates can no longer get away with saying -- as Palin did -- "I'm in the pro-American part of the country."

"These things sounded increasingly absurd to the swing voters," he said.

One of the targets of the Obama effort was voters like Housatonic Community College sophomore Alana Zartolas, who voted Democratic for more pragmatic reasons. "To lower the interest rates for student loans, like he was talking about, was important. I'm planning on getting a masters in criminal justice, and I really, really need those low-interest loans," she said.