Old Town Speaks: The Election Night Wisdom of Gerard Meagher

A little after 7 p.m. at the Old Town Bar and Restaurant on E. 18th Street, where a casual after-work crowd had gathered for some election-night boozing, one of Old Town’s co-owners, Gerard Meagher, whose family has owned the place for decades, walked towards the back of the bar, ordered a fine Scotch malt whiskey, and started talking politics.

“We’re probably the only place in New York that has Fox News on,” joked the 56-year-old Mr. Meagher, who, on this unseasonably warm evening, was wearing his customary outfit of tan shorts and brown loafers without socks. The three-inch McCain-Palin button affixed to the lapel of his navy blue blazer was an unmissable clue as to which candidate he had voted for earlier in the day at a polling station on 50th Street where, he said, he had to wait in line for more than an hour to cast his ballot.

“I think this is better than the Super Bowl!” he said.

The returns wouldn’t start coming in for about another hour, and although many of Old Town’s patrons, and indeed much of the city, seemed nervously poised for a Barack Obama victory, Mr. Meagher was holding out hope.

“I don’t believe this election is over,” he said, questioning the “relevance” of recent polls that have put Mr. Obama well ahead of John McCain in many states. “The polls were wrong the last time. I have no idea who’s gonna win.”

Mr. Meagher said there are a number of reasons why he supports the McCain-Palin ticket (though, he admitted, he would have rather seen the Republican nomination go to Mitt Romney), some of which boil down to the candidates’ personas. He said that when it comes to Sarah Palin, it doesn’t hurt that she is, well, kind of a looker.

“I just like what I see,” he said. “I think she’s a beautiful woman. I think she reflects the frontier qualities of the American spirit. I like that she’s a hunter, a fisher, a mother. I think a lot of people on the left really see her as a threat. I said the same thing about Ronald Reagan.”

And Mr. McCain?

“He’s an American hero,” said Mr. Meagher. “This guy’s put his life on the line for this country. He’s a person who’s gone against his party many times. He’s an independent thinker. I have problems with Obama’s associations with the Bill Ayers types. That makes me uncomfortable. But with McCain, I’m certain where his values are. And throughout this campaign he’s proven himself to be made of pretty tough stuff.”  

“But if McCain loses, what should he do?” asked Eleanor Randolph, 65, an Old Town regular, Obama supporter, and editorial writer at The New York Times who was sitting nearby, drinking Guinness with her husband, 68-year-old Peter Pringle, a former foreign correspondent for The Sunday Times of London.

“Do you mean long term or short term?” Mr. Meagher replied.

“Well, what I was thinking is that there’s so much anger out there. And all of these people are so afraid. So what should McCain do if he loses?”

Mr. Meagher’s response was touchingly idealistic: “He could really be a great asset to Obama if he could serve in some capacity in the Obama administration.”

And what would Mr. Meagher do if, by the end of the night, the election didn’t turn out the way he had hoped. Might there be more whiskey in his immediate future?

“I don’t know how I’ll react,” he said. “But either way, I think the republic will survive.”

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