Sunday, November 2, 2008

A Big Week for the City of Brotherly Love

This week marks a remarkable span of 6 days.

On Wednesday, the Phillies won the World Series. Immediately upon winning the game, Philadelphia descended into complete chaos. In Center City--the urban downtown of Philly, if there is such a thing--people streamed out of bars, and started running towards Broad Street, where thousands congregated to, well, stand around yelling. Thinking in advance, the police greased street lights and traffic lights to keep people from climbing up them. Direct observation indicates that that didn't work--but it was only later that night (perhaps given more time to drink and more time to get bored) when the burning, looting, and car-flipping began.

(If you look closely in the pictures to the left of the crowd, you can see "green man" from It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia dancing on top of a bus port...)

On Friday, of course, it was Halloween. What did I wear? My first costume was knee-high athletic socks, a white skirt, a yellow tank top with the Wonderbread logo, and hand-made silver medals: a "breadwinner." My second costume was slightly more abstract: I wore black and white-striped tights with an FBI hat, a wand, and fairy wings: "the Fed." (Get it? The Feds + a fairy to grant every wish come true...)

Last but not least, Obama supporters have been out in full force in Philly preparing for Tuesday's election. (Like my buddies Gail Collins and David Brooks, I'm not the only one to say, Finally! It's almost over!) Interestingly, these supporters are no longer asking for votes--they are asking for volunteers --yet another example of the many innovations of the well-oiled Obama campaign machine. In any case, PA remains a critical mass for both candidates. In an article on the state of the election, the Washington Post reports:

"Democratic Gov. Edward G. Rendell said he expects a massive vote from Philadelphia and a potentially strong showing in the surrounding suburbs to compensate for weaknesses in other parts of the state."

Likewise, David Broder (always a favorite) wrote a nice op-ed today, summing up the significance of Obama's extraordinary campaign:

"The most basic question about him -- or about anyone seeking the presidency -- is whether he has the capacity to lead the country and manage the government. Nothing in Obama's history -- lawyer, community organizer, state legislator and back-bench senator -- had demonstrated extraordinary skills. The proof had to come from the campaign itself. "

Nonetheless, Broder doesn't let Obama off the hook for some of his inconsistencies. Voicing some of the same reservations shared by grudging Obamacons, Broder doesn't subscribe to the breathless enthusiam (and naivete?) of hardcore supporters:

"Obama is not, any more than other politicians, a paragon. He reneged on his promise to use public funds for his general election campaign, driving a stake into the heart of the post-Watergate effort to reform the campaign finance system. He rejected McCain's invitation to hold joint town hall meetings -- opening the door to the kind of tawdry exchange of charges that we have seen. In both instances, he put his personal goals ahead of the public good -- a worrisome precedent. "

In a tremendously amusing account, George Will sums up the overall implications of the elections, which might (God forbid...) lead to a filibuster-proof Senate. Are municipalities prepared to accommodate record numbers of voters?

"Tuesday night might be chaotic: Elections are government undertakings, so they are not expected to be well run, and judging by the multiplying warnings that voting arrangements might buckle under the weight of large turnouts, Election Day seems to have taken many state and local governments by surprise, yet again. Such dreary developments, anticipated with certainty, must be borne philosophically."

Ironic--and occasionally caustic--understatement is Will's forte. Nonetheless, it will be interesting to see how the viccisitudes and material impediments to running an Election impact the voting masses, already worked up into high dudgeon over "the [ruined] nation, foundering on the reefs of sin" (conservatives) and " hand, the nation revived like a flower in an April shower" (progressives).

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