Last night I attended an election-night party hosted by the U.S. Consulate and held at Mitteldeutscher Rundfunk, the state-owned radio station. The building is impressive: a high rise in the south part of Leipzig, with fountains in the spacious lobby, statuary, glass-walled elevators and offices. Security was equally impressive. There were checkpoints outside, I.D. and invitation checks inside, metal detectors and purse-checkers. I was wanded before entering an elevator to the thirteenth floor. Four years ago Germany had a near-brush with terrorism on a Dortmund train, saved from tragedy only because the bomb failed to explode.
The party was held in a series of large rooms with spectacular views, decorated with bunting and American flags. There was food, wine, little tables with piles of McCain and Obama buttons, and a huge TV screen playing CNN Europe. However, it was impossible to hear Wolf Blitzer because the band kept playing American songs: "Big Bad LeRoy Brown" and, for some reason, an assortment of Bobby Darin standards. It was a very mixed crowd: diplomats in good suits and students in jeans.
I enjoyed myself.I talked for a long time to the Honorary Consul for Sweden, a retired German banker who speaks five languages. He introduced me to many people, including Leipzig's chief of police, but since many of these people did not speak English, conversations were necessarily short. With the exception of the Honorary Consul, most Europeans were solidly for Barack Obama. The piles of McCain buttons sat untouched; the Obama buttons were pinned to jackets and sweaters.
At midnight I went home, carrying my miniature American flag. There were no results yet, since it was only 6:00 p.m. in the U.S. East Coast and the polls hadn't even closed. So I went to bed without knowing who was our president-elect. This morning I woke up, listened to a BBC replay of Obama's moving speech in Grant Park, and studied the record voter-turnout figures. Child of the '60's, I could only marvel.
The times, they are a-changin'.