July 18, 2019 | 76° F

Democracy and change

America is once again cool. And it's all because we fell in love with democracy. Anyone who voted on Tuesday or saw the lines at polling places all across the nation realized it: Democracy is here to stay. As I watched Sen. John McCain give his concession speech, it still hadn't hit me yet. I was focused on only one aspect: the unofficial end to his brand of old politics and economics. I watched a crowd comprised almost exclusively of older white people boo Obama's name like they had hundreds of times before, but I also saw McCain give probably the best speech he's ever given in his life.

We were partying it up when we got word that dorms and neighborhoods were pouring out into the streets in spontaneous celebration in New Brunswick. We also got word that Massachusetts voters had decriminalized marijuana. Also, Michigan made medical weed legal. After watching Obama's extraordinarily inspirational acceptance speech, we hurried downtown where hundreds were already gathered. 

New Brunswick was not the only place where people took to the streets to celebrate Barack Obama's historic victory. People spontaneously poured out onto 125th Street in Harlem, Times Square, all over Chicago no doubt and even in Obama's father's hometown in Kenya, where a bull was ceremonially slaughtered in celebration. But New Brunswick was the only place that I wanted to be.

The groups that Obama united and motivated over the arduous campaign were subsequently united for a spontaneous party worthy of New Brunswick: A diverse group of students, workers and residents assembled downtown in the vicinity of Rockoff Hall and The Heldrich hotel where the Democrats held a huge party. New Jersey Democrats chose to party in New Brunswick because they, like the generation of suburban white flight, are probably starting to realize that urban areas like New Brunswick are ripe for the kind of change Obama is calling for. We chose to live here because we are hungry for change. Cities like New Brunswick can once again be true regional centers for culture, civics, and diversity. The two buildings, The Heldrich and Rockoff Hall, despite representing different classes within our city and state, were united in their joy for Obama. The group marched side by side through the Douglass residence halls, the Hispanic community along Suydam Street, student neighborhoods along Hamilton and Easton Avenues and eventually rallied at Brower Commons on the College Avenue campus. I will never forget that night as long as I will live, nor will anyone else who experienced similar spontaneous outbursts of joy throughout the nation.

However, winning this election was the easy part. Taking to the streets was the fun part. Now, it's time for the hard part: fixing all of what is broken in our neighborhoods, our city, our state and our country. I firmly believe that using democracy for good has the power to re-shape the entire way in which our society functions. The depressing era of conservatism and corporate culture is over. This could once again be a vibrant nation that serves as a model for how government should serve the public. Easier said than done, but either way the ball is in our court. And like the President-elect said, the way to fix this great county is "the only way its been done in America for 221 years – block by block, brick by brick, calloused hand by calloused hand." So, let's start here in New Brunswick.

The crowd in New Brunswick had several chants they shouted out but one struck a chord with me: "Tell me what democracy looks like - This is what democracy looks like." It's true. Like Obama said in his acceptance, no longer can anyone doubt or question the power of democracy or the democratic dreams of our founders.

Charlie Kratovil

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