Brooklyn, The Borough: Brooklyn Holds Its Breath

slopeobama Brooklyn, The Borough: Brooklyn Holds Its BreathOver the last weekend of the presidential election, the now ubiquitous Shepard Fairey-designed poster of a sacrosanct Barack Obama dotted the windows of shops and homes throughout Brooklyn. At the Gate, in Park Slope, the word "hope" below the senator’s smiling countenance had been amended to Slope.

Brooklyn, like the rest of New York State, is bound to vote overwhelmingly for Senator Obama, but with the race tightening in its last days – and even with polls heavily in his favor – the residents of Kings County are at once excited and apprehensive about what tomorrow will bring.

Mauri Weakley, 25, a fashion merchandiser who lives in Bedford-Stuyvesant was shopping in a local Brooklyn boutique recently when conversation turned to the election. "We were all discussing how we’d either be drinking champagne in celebration for Obama or straight whiskey if it were McCain," she said, adding "this is the first time many of us had ever wanted to post a picture of a potential president, or wear political pins or bags supporting a candidate. For Obama, clearly."

After the previous two presidential elections did not go in the left’s favor, much to the dismay of Gore and Kerry supporters here who felt jilted, nothing seems impossible, despite Mr. Obama’s lead in the polls. There’s a plausible sense among young people in Babylon Brooklyn that the democratic process has eroded to the point where a stolen election would come as no surprise, though a disputed election would garner far more scrutiny now than in previous years.

Down the street from the Gate, at Bar Reis, conversation on the outdoor patio turned to the frightening possibility that John McCain could pull it off and win – a definite doomsday scenario – and what foreign locales might see an influx of ex-pat Americans fleeing the right-wing policies of yet another right-wing president. Chatter across the bar made it apparent that these Brooklynites want nothing more than to wake up on Wednesday to find a smiling President-elect Obama on their television screens; to find President-elect McCain would be sacrilegious.

Though Senator McCain incites less derision than our current president does in Brooklyn, there’s a palpable sense among Democratic voters that he is no longer the maverick he claims to be, or perhaps once was. However, the senility displayed by Senator McCain over the final weeks of his campaign barely accounts for the contempt Brooklyn liberals seem to have for the Republican ticket.

With Oliver Stone’s film W fresh in the minds of the borough’s intellectual class, there’s a sense that the Sarah Palin wing of the republican party could prove far more detrimental to a country already brought to its knees by foreign wars and economic crises. "Palin is the next level, it’s so scary," a friend had told me after emerging from a screening at the Cobble Hill Cinema.

"I have heard so, so many conversations at the next table over at a bar or restaurant involving somebody’s personal critique or analysis of Sarah Palin," emailed Marcus Batista, 30, a retail manager who lives in Greenpoint. "I think that the [political] opinions of most people that I interact with or overhear are pretty unvaried, it’s not that interesting or heated of a topic, it’s way more fun to talk about Palin."

Some Brooklyn residents, especially those who’ve traded small-town America for the big city, resent the perception espoused by Ms. Palin and others that the borough and its ilk are less American.

"The best of America is in these small towns that we get to visit and in these wonderful little pockets of what I call real America, being here with all of you hard-working, very patriotic, very pro-America areas of this great nation," Sarah Palin had said in Greensboro, N.C., on Oct. 17.

Lefty Brooklynites might argue that it is the best and brightest of America – the individualists, the leaders – that have split those same small towns. And the implication that such a large swath of America is unpatriotic or somehow less American was greeted by heavy skepticism in taverns across Brooklyn.

Despite the harrowing nature and length of this presidential campaign, twenty- and thirty-something voters across the borough, especially those who voted disproportionately for Ralph Nader in 2000, are excited to have the opportunity to vote for a candidate who they believe is legitimately the best, rather than a lesser of two evils, and actually has a good chance at winning.

With that in mind, Mr. Batista, an Ohio native, hopes to help Mr. Obama just a little bit more by casting an absentee ballot there because he says "my conservative father lives in Stark County and I feel obliged to negate his vote; some call that oedipal, and I think that’s gross."