Sandy Banks: An Obama coalition that looks like America
Four years ago, when Barack Obama laid claim to the presidency, the streets around our downtown office were humming with celebratory energy. Last night, they were dark and virtually deserted by the time Mitt Romney conceded.
But I could hear the thrum of music from up the hill at Grand Park, downtown’s newly inaugurated gathering spot. I headed over and found a street scene that would have been unthinkable in the city’s center the last time around.
Thousands of young people had gathered on the lawn, many sporting “I voted” stickers and quaffing beer garden drinks. There were blankets, a bank of big-screen TVs and a sense of excitement mixed with relief.
I could count the number of people over 30 on one hand, with fingers left. But there was no way to tally the diversity: Gay and straight. Couples. College kids. Hipsters. Rastas. Guys in business suits. White, black, Latino, Asian and everything in between.
They were waiting for their president to speak. More than 60% of voters in their 20s cast ballots for Obama. And millions walked precincts and manned phone banks. Word of last night’s county-sponsored celebration spread on Twitter feeds and Facebook posts.
I realized I was witnessing a passing of the baton, a step into a new era by our city and our country. They reflect an emerging boundary-less America, just as Grand Park is a symbol of a new, more inclusive downtown.
I saw kaleidoscopic diversity, felt hope stirring and heard the power of young voices.
When Obama riffed in his acceptance speech on sentiments — love, duty, charity, patriotism — that might sound corny on some other night, they hooted, clapped and cheered, signifying their approval with clenched fists and peace signs thrust toward the sky.
And when the president signed off with “God bless these United States,” I teared up. But the young people behind me were smiling broadly, chanting "USA! USA! USA!"
— Sandy Banks
Photo: Supporters of President Barack Obama listen to the concession speech of Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney at Grand Park in downtown L.A. after Obama was reelected. Credit: Kevork Djansezian / Getty Images