The year 2012 is a year of elections: Taiwan’s election in January, Russia’s in March, and the “election” of Chinese Community Party members just a few days after the U.S. election.
As a resident of China, I have never been able to vote for the top leader. So I was happy to be able to witness, for the first time, the presidential election in the United States.
I wish I had been able to go to places like Texas, Iowa, Washington and Ohio to get more impressions of Republicans and Democrats. But I feel lucky to have been able to attend election night parties for both in San Francisco.
I took Caltrain from Palo Alto and arrived in San Francisco around 7 p.m. I started looking for the Republicans’ party, which was scheduled to begin at 5:30 p.m. at Alfred’s Steakhouse in San Francisco’s Chinatown. But when I got there, I thought I had the wrong address for it was silent outside. I opened the door, asked the waiter and was told to go downstairs for the Republican party.
At a desk at the entrance to a big and crowded room, you had to pay $25 for food and a drink ticket. I paid and went to the drinks counter. Three men and a woman were in line in front of me. They paid $15 to $25 each for cocktails and wine. I gave my drink ticket to the waiter for a water.
Around 80 people were huddled around five TV screens, all tuned to Fox News. The votes were still being counted, so there were sighs and laughs at the changing numbers of each state.
Dressed for success
After eating some fried seafood, I tried to watch and listen more carefully. I soon felt a little awkward, for most people there were well dressed. I never saw so many suits or ties at Stanford as I witnessed there. I was wearing jeans and a Stanford T-shirt. I was also one of only a handful of Asian faces in the room. Most were white, and there were more elderly than young people.
The main message I came away with was “Obama is not capable in business. Romney can do the job.” When I left the Republicans’ party, it was nearly 8 p.m. Votes were still being counted. Maybe that is why the atmosphere there was not as joyful as a real party.
I sat in a Chinese restaurant nearby for a while. It seemed strange that a football match was on the TV screen, not the election. It wasn’t until a boy shouted “Obama wins” that they turned to the result of the election.
Next, I jumped into a taxi to go to the Democrats’ headquarters on Market Street. And I could tell when we were close because I heard laughing and singing. And I soon saw a building with many people in front of it, a girl holding a poster of Obama and Biden, and a tall man in an Obama campaign T-shirt shouting “Yes, We Can!”
It was the headquarters of the Democratic party. There was a band playing music at the first-floor gate and a long line of people waiting to get into the big hall on the second floor.
The hall was almost as big as a basketball court. There were big TV screens, paper statues of Obama and his wife, several TV reporters with video cameras, long tables of food and drink, and an area for people to dance. I saw several women dancing cheerfully and even more cheerfully in front of the cameras.
It was hard for me to talk to people because it was very crowded and noisy, and no one wanted to stop celebrating.
Memories of Taipei
Watching people celebrating their success from the vote, I did feel exited. It reminded me of witnessing Taiwan’s election in Taipei. But I didn’t join the crowd to celebrate. What should I celebrate for? The election result is not for me.
After 9 p.m., there were more reports of Obama’s success, and more people crowded in. There were young people, Asians, Latinos, African Americans, most in casual dress and even cross-dress. All of them were rejoicing with excitement.
The paper statues of Obama and his wife became a focus. Many people, including me, waited in line to take photos with “Mr. and Mrs. President.” And few people were satisfied with only one photo. So they put the statues in different positions.
At 9:50, I had to leave to catch Caltrain back to Palo Alto. But people were still huddled in the hall, the band was still playing music outside the Democrats’ headquarters and there appeared to be some stands peddling Obama and Biden election keepsakes.
As I left, I thought how nice it was that, unlike the Republicans, the Democrats in San Francisco offered free drinks. It was only later that I found out there had been a price, $3 for the drink and maybe more for the food. I unintentionally failed to pay. So, maybe my election keepsake should be a button that says, “I owe Mr. Obama a drink.”