WASHINGTON, DC — Outside of the White House late Tuesday evening and into Wednesday morning, the crowd grew and pushed forward until some excited supporters of President Barack Obama had nowhere to go but up.
So some climbed the trees; others, the shoulders of their friends.
From there, the sidewalk, the street, and even the base of the General Comte de Rochambeau statue in Lafayette Park, a mass of mostly young adults sang the national anthem and chanted Obama’s name.
Even roughly two hours after the presidential election had been called for Obama, revelers continued to gather on the north side of the White House, cheering for a man who was, at the time, hundreds of miles away in Chicago.
It didn’t matter; they brought their own Obama. As someone carried a cardboard cutout of the president through the crowd, a young woman yelled out, “There he is! Obama!” Everyone cheered the cardboard cutout.
Some people had followed the election closely throughout the evening.
“My phone died because I was checking Twitter constantly,” one young woman said to a male companion. “Did we win Florida yet?”
Other revelers, it seemed, had shown up for the party: The smell of pot smoke was thick in the air. One man waved a California flag. At the rear of the crowd, a gaggle of men stood and watched, each clutching a can of Heineken beer.
As the impromptu party in the president’s honor was ramping up, however, another not-quite celebration had been cut short just blocks away.
Inside of the Ronald Reagan Building, the night had begun buoyantly for the Republican National Committee. Speaker John Boehner, armed with the knowledge that he would maintain control of the House of Representatives, ended his brief remarks by pumping his fist into the air.
After 10 p.m., the press was told Reince Priebus, the head of the RNC, would speak. But the night bore on, and it became clear that Obama would win; and one hour later, and then two, Priebus still did not show.
Just before midnight, in the absence of electoral hope, a country band continued to play to an emptying room.
“We’re gonna party anyway,” the lead singer insisted defiantly. “What else is there to do? What else is there to do.”
As I exited the RNC event later, one Republican who had left earlier was on her way back in.
“I figured we might as well get drunk,” she shrugged, and walked through the metal detector.