Watching the Election in Richmond

Dec 312008

By Arundhati Mukherjee

When I received confirmation from ICFJ and also from the American center, that ICFJ had selected me to cover the American polls, I leapt for joy. Most of the American media predicted that the anti-incumbency factor of the Bush administration was working very strongly in the country. George Bush had become more unpopular, which threatened the Republican candidate’s chance of winning. When the Democrats chose an African-American as their presidential candidate I was thrilled. It no longer remained a subject of international politics, but went beyond that. The fact that the United States was probably going to make history came to my mind. It became my dream assignment.

The dream started to blossom from October 23. We were given a fair idea about the American polls and related matters in Washington, D.C. After the preparation, it was the time for going into the field. I made my steps to the Richmond Times Dispatch with a small thrill and a lot more tension. Would they be nice to me? But the moment I went up to the second floor the smiles on their faces took all my tensions away. I was impressed by the practical banner in their editorial boardroom – “Think like readers”.

I started working under their political bureau chief – Andrew Cain. It was because of him that I could send my stories to Calcutta. He sent me to James Madison University to see the campaign of Obama, and other places to get a feel for the campaign. All who I met helped me a lot. When I was in Virginia I saw that the young generation was very excited by this poll. This, I think is a good indication for a country because they will ultimately lead the nation.

Finally, the D-Day came. The first news flash showed that Obama had three electoral votes and McCain, eight.

However, as Obama started gaining more every minute, the balance reversed and a large margin developed. At about 3 am, it became clear that the United States had made history. A nation founded by slave owners, seared by civil war and generations of racial strife finally proved that it believes in equality. It was a small step for man, but a giant leap forward for mankind. On the November 4, I became a witness to a moment in history for which I thank the ICFJ, and of course, The Richmond Times Dispatch.

The writer is chief of news bureau for Aajkaal in Kolkata, India.