Election Day diary from the IndyGo window
On board the No. 17 bus, 11 a.m.
It’s seven hours before the polls close in Indiana, but the citizens riding the IndyGo bus downtown don’t need any network analysts to tell them how the election is going to go. Everyone getting on the bus is wearing some indicator of support for Barack Obama, whether it’s a homemade T-shirt, a baseball cap purchased at an Obama rally or simply a pin with a picture of his face on it.
An elderly African-American woman, her face blemished with age spots, clutched two large grocery bags in her hands and engaged the driver in conversation.
“I did everything I wanted to do today,” she told the driver. “I went to get my groceries. I went to vote for my man. I’m a happy woman today, yes, ma’am.” She repeatedly thanked the bus driver and invited her to a dinner at Golden Corral. As the bus neared her residence in the 1500 block of North College Avenue, she told the driver, “I love you.”
“I love you, too,” the driver responded. A man sitting near the back of the bus started to clap in appreciation, not an ounce of sarcasm in his action.
“She sure is a sweet lady,” the driver said.
As the bus headed towards the Circle, passengers started debating amongst themselves. “I just don’t trust that Sarah Palin,” a lady in her 40s said. “She’s got some evilness about her. I’m going to be really afraid if she gets in there.”
“Don’t worry,” a well-dressed woman on her way to work said. “There’s not any chance that she’s getting anywhere near the White House.”
“It ain’t going to be the White House no more,” someone else chimed in. “No way, no how that they gonna be able to steal this one. Not even gonna be close.”
The bus stops at Ohio and Pennsylvania. I start walking through the mass of people to Monument Circle, where the sun is shining brightly and the sound of the fountains, traffic and tourists milling about combine into a constant rhythm of noise, enough to make you feel like you’re in the literal heart of Indianapolis.
Rachel Boyd is standing on Monument Circle holding a sign guaranteed to draw attention from drivers and pedestrians alike: “Please Bring My Husband Home from Iraq — Vote Obama.” Small American flags are attached to the sides of the sign to emphasize her patriotism. Mrs. Boyd tells me that her husband is in Iraq but that “we’re not allowed to say exactly where he is.”
She says, “I’m here today campaigning for Sen. Barack Obama and my main goal is to end this war in Iraq so that people like my husband can come home from overseas.” She deliberately did not vote early and waited until today to cast her ballot “so that I could be part of the action today. ... People have been pretty positive. People have been driving by and waving and honking their horns at me. There are some naysayers out there but it is my firm belief that he will get us out of this war.”
She tells me that one particularly angry lady, a McCain supporter, stopped her car to argue politics with her but that it wasn’t that big a deal. Mrs. Boyd seems a bit excited and anxious and anticipatory as the noon sun shines on Indianapolis.
Everyone else does too.
A short hop on the No. 38 from the Circle brings you to the state capitol building, an area that doubles as the seat of government as well as the main public transportation hub for the city. Opportunist vendors walk around with slabs of homemade Obama T-shirts draped over their arms. A bootleg piece of history for $5. People wearing Obama gear are congratulating each other, even if they’ve never met.
“Barack Obama, girl,” one young woman says to another, and those three words say it all. People get on the buses to go home, to the trustees’ office, to work and to visit friends. They’re in an especially good mood today.
If you get off the College Avenue bus at 17th Street, you can visit two of the greatest treasures in the city: the Kennedy-King Peace Memorial and Country Kitchen restaurant. Country Kitchen is all about good soul food, conversation and laughter; its reputation is so exalted that Obama himself ate breakfast there in May. It’s busy inside, everyone rushed and smiling.
Across the street in a small grassy park is the Kennedy-King statue, located at the place where Robert F. Kennedy dolefully calmed an angry, frightened group of black citizens on the night Martin Luther King was murdered. The statue shows Kennedy extending his hand to King, with King reaching with all his might to grasp it, not quite making it. The monument was unveiled in 1994 with President Clinton, Coretta Scott King and Edward Kennedy in attendance.
They are alone today, still trying to reach each other in perpetual determination on the day Barack Obama is being elected president of the United States.
Mark Banks, originally from Cleveland, Ohio, comes up to me and wants to make a statement to my video camera about the election.
“People are talking about the economy,” he says. “Color don’t have anything to do with it. People are trying to say that Barack Obama is black but people don’t realize that his mom was Italian ... Do you know how well educated he is?”
People are going to be happy tonight if Obama wins, he says, because “we’re going to have a chance to get this country back in order.”
What if he loses? “I just don’t see that happening,” he says, mentioning the good weather. Democrats like to vote late in the day, after work. Between 5 and 6 p.m., he says, “that’s where he’s going to get all the votes.”
The northern-bound bus picks me up and takes me off past the Morris Printing Company, the former CA Collister Hardware Store, the Super 8 Food Mart, with Broad Ripple and Glendale the ultimate destination. But everyone’s journey this day seems to be intertwined with their own personal feelings and sense of history.
“It’s a beautiful day,” a car radio blares at a stoplight. Most of the passengers don’t hear it. In their words and their expressions, they’re creating their own remix of that song and its sentiments.