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Columbia Missourian

Voters share their thoughts the day after

By Missourian staff
November 5, 2008 | 6:35 p.m. CST

Columbia native Karlen Beltman was on Chicago's Red-Line train headed to Grant Park for the Barack Obama rally when, over the train's emergency loud speaker, it was announced that Obama had reached the winning threshold of 270 electoral votes.

"The fully packed train of professionals, students, working class, black, white, Asian, it didn't matter, everyone was cheering and crying," he said. "It was one of those moments in my life I will never forget."

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Beltman trekked to Chicago to work as an account manager shortly after graduating from MU this spring with a political science degree.

Because the area was too crowded, Beltman wasn't able to get into Grant Park on Tuesday night. He watched Obama's speech at P.J. Clarke's, a bar two blocks away.

When he woke Wednesday morning, Beltman said, he felt like he was in a new world - a world where discrimination and judgment were absent, and Americans had again come together as a people.

"The fact that the entire country voted Obama by a landslide really gave me the notion that America is back on track."

— Kelsi Stoltenow

 

Richard Saltzman, a manager at the Subway in Ashland, said he had a feeling that Barack Obama would win the presidency two hours before the results made that clear.

"I pretty much feel that anything else would be better than the last eight years," Saltzman said during a break after the Wednesday lunch rush.

Saltzman said he's been following the election closely for the past two months. He likes Obama's policies and his open-mindedness, and has begun to introduce his 4-year-old nephew, Alexander, who is also mixed race, to the political process.

"I took him to the Obama rally," Saltzman said. "He got a little bored after a bit, but he had a fun time. He knows who Barack Obama is, and he knows that he was running for president."

Saltzman's earliest memories of a president were of President George H. W. Bush when he was seven or eight. As Alexander reaches that age, Saltzman is pleased that Obama will be the president his nephew remembers.

"The first president that he will remember will be a black man," Saltzman said. "He's not going to grow up with these perceived limitations that he can't grow up to be anything that he wants to be."

— Rebecca Anderson

 

Since John McCain's stopover at Buckingham Smokehouse Bar-B-Q in south Columbia near the end of his presidential campaign, the corner booth where he ate a hot link special has become a novelty conversation piece that's otherwise indistinguishable from the other light wood tables.

Emily Scott, a waitress at the restaurant, was working the day McCain came through and has been asked about the unidentified table ever since.

"I thought about painting the table red and pointing an arrow at it," she said after the lunch rush on Wednesday.

Since McCain's visit, it's been business as usual at Buckingham. The nonpartisan restaurant is not known as a place for political commentary, Scott said, although a few customers have told her what they thought about McCain's pit stop.

"I actually had a few people say they almost didn't come back because McCain ate here," she said.

— Regan McTarsney

 

Inside the small, sunlit Break Time at Deer Park, south of Columbia, Heather Crawford, 26, was sharing a lunch of country-fried steak on Wednesday with her 4-year-old daughter.

Crawford, who described herself as a "staunch Republican" and "God-fearing woman," said she was experiencing shock and fear on the day after her choice for president ended up on the losing end of the national vote.

"I have a fear of so many Democrats being in office, and what's going to happen now," she said. "I don't know what I fear is going to happen. At this point, who knows? It's just happened."

Crawford said she's worried about whether Obama is "going to do the things he said he's going to do? Is he going to raise taxes for the rich and increase restrictions for getting on welfare?"

While she's unhappy about Democratic victories at the national and state level, she said that when it comes to Obama, the issue is not one of race.

"I hope that our country made the right decision," she said. "I really do hope Obama does what he promises. If he does, he'll have done a very good job, but he'll spend the next four years cleaning up the economy situation we're in. Will he get blamed for that? I'm sure he will."

Then Crawford turned her attention to her daughter, Adelaide.

"I just want the country to be a good place for my daughter to grow up," she said. "I want her to have a clean environment, be able to go to college, everything. It's not for me. My life is half over. It's for her."

— Linda Waterborg

 

At first glance, the Boone County Republican Headquarters looked empty early Wednesday afternoon. The only sign that 1310 Vandiver Drive was the correct location was a glittery elephant in the window, and even that was partially hidden by blinds.

Boxes and leftover campaign signs scattered the room where a security guard and a handful of Republicans sat. No one wanted to talk to a Missourian reporter about the election, saying they were too busy packing up.

After the reporter left, GOP volunteer Gerald Burns, sporting an autographed red McCain-Palin baseball cap, showed up at the Missourian to share his thoughts.

An avid campaigner, Burns said he had been expecting the outcome the country and Missouri witnessed after the polls closed on Tuesday.

"We weren't surprised when Kenny Hulshof lost," he said. "I'd been working over 200 hours on the phone. I realized when I called the north part of the state and south part of the state they didn't know him like we know him. The worst thing to find out was that he couldn't hold Boone County. That was hard."

Burns was especially enthusiastic about the turnout among young voters.

"When I was a Young Republican in 1978, I graduated from high school, and numbers as low as 12 to 15 percent of the youth in high school were going to participate and vote when they were 18. This is absolutely the best thing about this whole election. The numbers in high school I heard were up in the 80s and 90s. Americans should appreciate our youth involvement in this election."

Despite the loss of the candidates he supported, Burns was insistent about the need to support the president-elect.

"He's our leader, and he's my president. I will pray for him. I will never bad-mouth him. He's the President of the United States."

— Linda Waterborg and Amanda Peterson

 

Paula Levine is an adult English as a Second Language instructor at Columbia Public School's Adult Learning Center in Douglass High School. Although most of her 15 ESL students aren't U.S. citizens and cannot vote, she said it was important to her and her students to discuss the presidential election Wednesday in class.

Her students, Levine said, were struck Tuesday night by the calm, rhythmic way President-elect Barack Obama speaks.

"Several seemed to express that they were so happy just to be able to understand him," she said. "They understand him on a very literal level because of how clearly he speaks."

Levine said another student, who did vote Tuesday, said U.S. immigrants live in a world of worry and uncertainty — often questioning whether they can really make it in this country. The student was certain, Levine said, that Obama's election will convince many immigrants that they can.

— Kelsi K. Stoltenow

 

Judy Weatherspoon, a Republican who works at Sofas & More on Business Loop 70 and voted for John McCain, said she has no worries about Barack Obama.

"I think it will be good for the country, I really do," she said Wednesday. "I think we will start to pull together."

Weatherspoon said she has confidence in Obama. "I know he'll take care of things... It's OK. We need the change in the country."

But some have reservations. Dan Trim, who works at Tiger Pawn on the Business Loop, said he believes that people who expect a lot of change are going to be disappointed.

"I'm afraid that the people that are counting on him could end up disappointed two years from now when things haven't drastically changed. I hope that's wrong, I do," Trim said.

Luke Hicks, who works at Tiger Pawn, said he didn't feel that either candidate had a good strategy for his top issue: the economy. "I don't like the idea of taking from the rich and giving to the poor. ...I'm not the handout kind of guy, I'd rather work for what I have. It's kind of socialistic."

Hicks said he has faith that Obama is up to the task. "I'm glad to see he's president," he said. "I don't think anybody that runs for president is looking to harm the United States."

Veena Sahota's eyes lit up at the senior center on the Business Loop as she talked about her new interest in politics. "I was so happy," Sahota said. "Because, you see, this is the only year when I took a little interest in politics. Otherwise, I have never in my life taken any interest in politics."

Sahota, who lived in India for the first 57 years of her life, likened Obama to John F. Kennedy and his famous line to ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.

Korean War veteran Curtis McMorris, who was eating lunch at the Senior Center, thinks there is a lot of work to be done.

 “We’re so darn deep in debt, trying to get out of it will be something else. You don’t get out of that big of a debt overnight.”

McMorris said he was surprised by the outcome. “I mean, it was a first, something that had never happened before. I thought the race would be closer than what it was.”

— Cassidy Shearrer

 

Jason Crowley said he didn't vote for Barack Obama or John McCain.

In the place allocated to write in a candidate, he wrote, "No confidence."

He has grievances about the way the country has gone, as well as the way it may go, now that Obama is the president-elect. In a word, Crowley feels "unrestful."

"We should be at war with our own government right now if everything was right," Crowley said Wednesday afternoon, while sitting with his pit bull, Ruca, in an alley off Cherry Street in downtown Columbia.

Crowley said he lives in Audrain County and comes to Columbia now and then for fun. He said he is "choosing not to have a job right now" and spends some of his time with homeless people "for entertainment."

Crowley said he believes other people in his demographic — he described himself as "poor but artistic" — feel the way he does.

But Everett Bray, a poor man with whom he was spending time on this day, was thrilled by Obama's victory.

Obama's "gonna change the whole world," screamed Bray, 43. "If he made it as a black man as president, he's gonna change the world."

Crowley respectfully disagreed.

— Jordan Novet

 

Relief was a theme of the day for several MU students eating lunch on Wednesday in MU's Pershing Commons.

Gone are the campaigners who seemed to work every street corner. Gone are the never-ending stream of political commercials on television.

"I can actually have real television back now," said Abby Berndt, 21, a plant sciences major.

Andrew VanEngelenhoven, 36, a sustainable agriculture major, expressed relief that his phone will stop ringing with campaign messages.

"I was gone one time for an hour and a half," he said. "I came back, and had five messages on my machine. I never have five messages."

As late as 6:30 Tuesday night, MU student Whitney Middleton, 20, said, "we had people coming, knocking on our doors."

Middleton said she watched the election results from the time the polls closed in Missouri through Obama's acceptance speech in Chicago's Grant Park.

"I just wanted to watch because it was a big historic event," she said. "We watched McCain's speech, and we watched Obama's speech. ... I did agree with how it turned it out, but either way I think it was a big event for people to see and watch and take a part in."

— Brian Krebs

 

The carnival music emanating from the carousel mixed with lunch conversations at the food court in Columbia Mall.

What was standard fare for a Wednesday came with a side of mixed emotions in response to Barack Obama's landslide presidential victory over John McCain.

"I'm proud, man - proud to be an American - proud to be a black man." Antonio Chester, 23, said as he waited for his sloppy joe and fries.

"Last night actually felt like we were one nation," Chester said. "I'm still excited about it."

Kathy Erwin, a resident of Brashear, near Kirksville, who declined to reveal her choice for president, described herself as more "anxious" than anything as she poked at her yellow rice.

"It's — wow — I don't know," Erwin said. "I'm not real comfortable just yet."

For Rob Shipman, 31, neither of the candidates' economic plans is sound, and he is skeptical of the nation's current track.

"I think we got the better of the two guys," Shipman said with little enthusiasm. "Everybody seems to be in a lot better mood now."

Columbia resident Yvette Poindexter was moved by the historical aspect of the election and was elated that her 17 year-old daughter would be able to share this experience with her own grandchildren.

"I'm overwhelmed," Poindexter said. "I woke up in the morning and still had chills in my body."

"It's huge," Dana Prosser, a Centralia resident said as she waved to her daughter and 2-year-old grandson riding on the carousel.

"I didn't vote for Obama," Prosser said. "But I think we'll be OK. It will just be new and different for all of us."

While many people neglected to comment or preferred to opine anonymously, of those who did share their thoughts, Obama's acceptance speech seemed to resonate the most.

"Black, white, Asian or Puerto Rican, if they spoke the way he spoke, I would vote for him," Poindexter said.

— Andrew Del-Colle

 

When asked about the election results, Jim McCartney's answer was simple: "One word would summarize my feeling: ecstatic."

Pat Timberlake, who joined the MU sociology professor for lunch at Uprise Bakery on Wednesday, said her reaction was one of relief.

McCartney said he has been keeping an eye on the polls for weeks on RealClearPolitics.com. In the last days before the election, he said he would check on the Web site up to four times a day.

While Timberlake, the former head of MU's journalism library, and McCartney said most predictions they saw favored Obama, neither could believe it. They both thought something would go wrong.

"I found it hard to believe that it was going to happen," McCartney said.

When he went to his polling place, however, McCartney said he felt more optimistic. "After I voted, I felt a sense of calmness."

After Obama won, McCartney said he and his wife were too excited to sleep.

He said the election results indicate the shift in the United States' ethnic composition.

"The demography of the United States is changing. This is a signal that politics is finally catching up," McCartney said.

Both Timberlake and McCartney lived through the 1960s, and they remember race riots and Civil Rights demonstrations.

"When we were in school, the idea that a black man could be president was not even on the map," Timberlake said, except perhaps in the distant future. "This says so much about where our country is in this point in time."

Obama's election, Timberlake said, reflects our country's tradition of immigration and diversity. This country, she said, has always been one of "other people."

In addition to revealing diversity, Timberlake said Obama's election indicates that the country can work together. "He's willing to work for all groups."

She also looks forward to an improvement in foreign policy. She said that she has read several interviews with world leaders and that the conservatives are pleased with the results.

Timberlake said in the future, politicians would view Obama's campaign as a success model.

Timberlake said that Obama's campaign proved that a grassroots model is successful. The campaign utilized numerous private donations, both big and small, and created a presence on the Internet, in Columbia and even on cell phones.

McCartney agreed. "What the Obama campaign proved is a strong relentless effort to get out and knock on doors," he said.

McCartney and Timberlake know that there is a lot of work ahead of the future president.

"That was the easy part," McCartney said of the election. One of the biggest challenges, he said, will be "dealing with the enormous problems of the economy."

Timberlake said that immigration and health care reform are also be important because both are issues the Bush administration neglected.

Despite the difficulties the future holds, McCartney is hopeful. "I think there's an element of good will here to work with," he said. "I think Obama's a realist."

— Jennifer Gordon

 

Around closing time at Lucy's Corner Cafe in downtown Columbia, cook David Robinett said he couldn't vote this year because of being in trouble with the law. But he expressed his contentment with America's decision.

"I'm really happy," he said. "I think Obama will run it and be a good president."

Robinett said the streets of downtown Columbia were alive with celebration Tuesday night.

"I was excited and was happy when I heard he won and could hear all kinds of hooting and hollering outside. People were so excited."

Robinett said that one reason for his excitement is that this could mean the beginning of the end of racism.

"There are people saying America's a racist country, but if it was, Obama wouldn't have been elected president. I think hate crimes will stop now because now people can't use race as an excuse if a black man is president."

Robinett said he hopes for a better and more peacful economy with Obama as the president.

"All my friends psyched me up for it, and I think it will change the economy where Bush screwed up. It might take time to change, but he'll do it and end the stupid war we've got going on and bring our troops home," Robinett said.

— Morven McCulloch

Missourian reporter Jennifer Gordon contributed to this report.

 

Brian Butcher joined fellow McCain supporter Jon Overacre on Wednesday at the Shakespeare's Pizza's west location and discussed the election's outcome, which disappointed them.

Even though Barack Obama's election wasn't what either had hoped for, both shared a positive outlook on the future.

"I'm extremely happy for those that supported him. I'm hopeful that their involvement will continue," Butcher said.

Both men expressed excitement regarding what Overacre said was "the country moving forward."

"I hope there's as much as substance in office as there was on the campaign trail. If he can do half as well in office as he did campaigning, he'll be a great president," Overacre said.

Missouri, historically a swing state, voted in favor of McCain by a narrow margin of 5,868 votes. It marked the first time since 1956 when Missouri's electoral votes did not go the eventual winner of the presidency.

Sentiment from the McCain supporters varied and included these two men's outlook on the future and people who said they felt ill.

Across Broadway, at Wal-Mart, Charlie Boster said he wasn't bothered by the Obama win even though he didn't support the Democrat for president.

"I just don't like the idea of Senate, Congress and the president all being the same, whether its Democrat or Republican," Boster said.

Wal-Mart shoppers Larry and Gail Ryan described themselves as feeling sick when they woke up Wednesday morning.

"I think the direction the country is going to take is a direction of a compromise of family values, namely abortion and gay rights," Larry Ryan said.

Scott Ehrlich said he's proud that America elected a black president.

"I hope he got elected because he's well-qualified and not because he's black," Ehrlich said. "I'm one of those conservative Christians that clings to his guns and religion, and some of his promises that he's made to his constituents just terrify me. But I have faith in the system of government."

— Eric Berger

 

Politically, Tim Moloney identifies with the red tablecloths at the Perche Creek Cafe on Highway 40 near Midway. He voted for McCain and was disappointed, yet not surprised, with the outcome of the presidential election.

"It went the way I expected," he said during lunch Wednesday, citing the poll's prediction of the Obama campaign's win.

Moloney said he is concerned about the future for numerous reasons, mainly because of Obama's answers to the economy.

"I'm really worried about small businesses," Moloney said. "I'm very fearful."

Moloney works for an area landscape service and said he is employed by a small business that faces increased taxes under Obama's plan.

"For small businesses and those people who employ common workers, their research and experts have already recommend downsizing," he said.

With the election settled, Moloney said he is even more anxious. He said he fears that Obama's economic plan will exacerbate the economy's downward spiral.

"If he increases taxes and forces employer health care on business owners, then he's going to force them to react by cutting back, maybe even by dropping workers."

Moloney also said he is worried that Obama's tax plan will hurt workers by forcing their clients to cut back on spending.

"The people who Obama says don't need the money are the clients of the very workers he is trying to stimulate."

Moloney said he fears that low-paid workers might be laid off or paid less so that their employers can stay afloat.

"I don't think you can take money from one class and give it to another to stimulate anything," he said of Obama's tax policy. "He is penalizing many people who have worked very hard to get where they are."

He said knows the president-elect has a big order to fill.

"No matter who was elected last night, they inherited a mess," he said. "I wish the best of luck to him. I hope I'm wrong. I hope Obama can pull us out of this and I'm not sure McCain could do it either."

Moloney said he isn't confident that any president could fix the economy, regardless of their plan.

"I don't know if we should put stock in any one person to pull us out of an economic situation. Just as you can't blame Bush for our current economy, you can't expect Obama or McCain to solve it either," he said.

A table over from Moloney, retiree Tom Forney of Rocheport dined with his wife, Jane, and his good friend Mike Yurkanin.

Unlike Moloney, Forney said he doesn't identify with a party. In fact, he thinks political parties are a big part of the problem.

"I don't belong to any party. I vote for the person would do the best for the country, and my vote has switched from party to party over the years," he said.

"The real problem is that this country has become too partisan. Neither party has the answer, only both parties together can have an answer."

"We now have Obama as president. Today. No matter who we supported yesterday, it makes no difference," he said. "We must set all our fears aside. This is the man we hired to do the job."

However, he said he does have problems with Obama's platform, just as he had with McCain's.

"I'm worried about Obama's extreme stance on gun rights. It's our Second Amendment only to the freedom of expression."

Forney said he is concerned with Obama's plans for the economy, as well.

"We don't know how the economy is to be rebuilt; we've no guidelines or textbooks," he said. "Obama's advisers must study the past and do what it takes ... The problem I have as far as sharing the wealth, is that it could be punishing the high achiever."

Even though he said he is worried about some of Obama's stances, Forney emphasizes the importance of staying hopeful and supportive.

"We have to think positive. Negative thoughts are counterproductive," he said. "If we can set partisanship aside, we can use our resourcefulness, our American wherewithal, our spirit, and then we can overcome any obstacle, right any situation."

— James Saracini