2012 Watch Parties

Previously published in The Washington Post.  

Quentin James, a Prince George’s County youth serving as national director of the Sierra Club’s Student Coalition, joined a crowded State of the Union watch party at Busboys and Poets at 5th & K, Tuesday night, and mentioned a meeting he has scheduled with Vice President Biden on Wednesday.


“I think young people definitely were excited about the speech. But they definitely wanted to hear more about student loans and more about getting young people involved in the greening economy,” James said. That’s what he plans to tell the veep when he and a delegation of Sierra club student reps visit the White House.


James spoke for just a few minutes after watching the speech with a crowd of very opinionated activists, many of them blogging, tweeting, texting and live-streaming from their laptops at the venue known for its cultivation of activism. Quite different from the crowd a few blocks south on K Street, where the African American Leadership Council’s (AALC) youth contingent prepared to carry the party line, the crowd at Busboys was decidedly more critical.


The two watch parties, which I visited briefly, hanging out with my friend, were among 2,700 watch parties nationwide, according to Chicago reporter Lynn Sweet who tweeted about them. In the Nation’s Capitol, and surrounding areas organizations – including the Tea Party Express and the Green Party – hosted watch parties. Families and individuals hosted watch parties in their homes, too. It was déjà vu’ all over again.


Remember when we cheered at watch parties, awed by Obama’s nomination acceptance speech, and again at inauguration parties the day he was sworn in? The cheering was noticeably tempered at the two watch parties I attended Tuesday. The AALC’s party for the 40-and young (and some of us who defied the age limit), was held at Lima Restaurant at 14th and K. There, nattily-dressed men in dark suits and white shirts, and young women professionally dressed for government, applauded the part pitch: four million Americans were out of work in the six months prior to Obama taking office; three million Americans have been hired in the past six months.


Patrick Gaspard, White House advisor and executive director, Democratic national Committee, Four years later, this January we’re enjoying unseasonably warm days, but so many are out in the cold economically. They have lost jobs, lost, houses, lost hope. We’re told there’s a rainbow at the end.


Gaspard, executive director, Democratic National Committee, charged the supporters with delivering the message of this administration’s accomplishments. “You all remember when Barack Obama was sworn in that cold day in January when he stood on the steps of the Capitol, the steps and the Capitol that were built by slaves…” His message was audience appropriate to be sure.  Four years after that fateful day of swearing in our first African American president, we are enjoying unseasonably warm weather, but so many are out in the cold economically, having lost jobs, lost, houses, lost hope. We’re told there’s a rainbow at the end – a rainbow we must help create. He acknowledged the discontent in the black community, but reminded the crowd of its promise. “You all are the most powerful generation of African Americans that ever lived in this country.


“We know what we inherited. We know where we come from. We know where we are today,” Gaspard told the not-quite-capacity crowd of young professionals, detailing the commander-in-chief’s accomplishments. “It’s now your responsibility to go out and amplify that message. Let people know we are at a make-or-break point for the middle class.”


Back at Busboys and Poets, the crowd of activists, debated whether “the people” are doing their part. The people are challenging the establishment of corporate greed and irresponsibility, they said. Look at Occupy movements across the country. The people are challenging criminal injustice. Recall the case of Troy Davis. A couple of the brothers at Busboys were disappointed that their president had failed to address either of those matters.


The mere excitement of the President’s speech and planned watch parties had excited me, harkened me back to the glory days of 2008. That year, that campaign had been exciting beyond anyone’s imagination. This year, my excitement is tempered by the harsher reality of what change requires, what it exacts.  I got the feeling at the watch parties that others’ excitement is tempered as well – for now. But it’s early in the season.





eat entertainment – just enough industry insight and relationship drama to keep me coming back.  The show airs at 10 p.m. on ABC. Click here for previews (http://beta.abc.go.com/shows/scandal), and to join the discussion of the show. Cast members will be answering questions live on twitter during the first broadcast tonight.



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