Originally published in The Metropolitan. Nov. 6, 2008
If there were stark differences between Sens. John McCain and Barack Obama during the campaign season, there were also stark differences between the support they received Election Day.
To find those distinctions you need go no further than the polling stations at Manuel High School in Denver and Word of Life Church in Lone Tree.
The modest school building is nestled in the middle of Five Points, a corner of Denver highly populated by blacks. Exit polling done by The Metropolitan at Manuel found solid support for Obama, the country’s first black man nominated to a major party’s ticket.
Meanwhile, in the shadow of the Park Meadows Mall, in the suburbs of Douglas County, those who cast votes at Word of Life were behind McCain, the man who would have been the oldest elected president. The neighborhoods there are predominately white and middle to upper class.
In the end, it was about the past and the future.
An older black man walks quickly toward the high school.
“I got to go help my Obama,” he said. “Better not be no John McCain.”
That man was Dennis Hase.
Hase, 51, and Waeshiea Sipes, 29, both first-time voters, walked with more than pep in their step to the polls. Elizabeth Briathwaite, 27, drove them there. All three voted for Obama.
“I want to be a part of history,” Sipes said simply.
Hase said he was upset at how President Bush had destroyed the good economy and peaceful times Bill Clinton left behind.
“They should have left him in,” he said laughing.
“The Republicans, they started these wars,” he yelled. “All of our people are dying over there because of them.”
Hase, who grew up in Five Points and graduated from Manuel High School in 1973, said he was never asked to be a part of the political process until this year. He said he was happy to see a huge push to engage the youth today, so more don’t end up like him.
“All I cared about was being a ‘playa,’ ya know? I was living another life then,” he said.
Hase said as he’s gotten older, his worldview has grown, and he knows the current state of affairs are all wrong.
“Obama, he’s going to bring the world back together,” he said. “People are gonna start helping people again.”
Hase said Obama being black, like himself, had nothing to do to with his vote. “I wouldn’t care if he was black, white, purple, red, green or blue. He’s for the people.”
Kena Roberts, 50, is decked out in blue. Even her eyes are outlined with Obama’s hue. But she voted red.
Being from a military family, she voted for McCain. Roberts, who lives in a neighborhood behind the church, believes McCain understands the need to support the troops more and will do so better than Obama.
Her nephew is in charge of a platoon that just got back from Iraq and will likely be redeployed overseas next year. Roberts thinks the U.S. has “accomplished everything we can” in Iraq and will move into Pakistan next.
She said regardless of who wins, she hopes the American people will rally behind the troops, even in the smallest of ways, such as putting together care packages or sending board games or decks of cards.
“Our soldiers in Afghanistan have nothing,” she said. “They’re alone on a hill.”
Roberts also said McCain’s and Palin’s experience helped secure her vote. “She’s been tough in Alaska,” Roberts said.
Geography is a culprit in this tale of two precints. Everyone questioned at Manuel voted for Obama while everyone questioned at Word of Life voted for McCain.
Chris Kingery, 38, and a registered Democrat, laughed as if it was insane for anyone to ask why he voted for Obama.
“It’s time,” he said outside of the high school. “I’m tired of the Republican regime.” He said Obama would bring a young and fresh perspective. And Kingery, a white man, said he liked the fact Obama was black. He said this would help shift the paradigm in Washington.
When asked if he was worried that Obama was too young and inexperienced, Kingery said no candidate except an incumbent is qualified. “This is a job that you learn as you go,” he said.
But Micah Cameron, 24, voted for McCain because he believes, from living in Chicago, Obama is only “theory” and doesn’t have enough experience to accomplish anything on his agenda.
“He’s done nothing in Chicago,” he said. “There have been more murders on the streets there than deaths in Iraq in the last six months.”
Cameron thinks that if Obama is elected president, anything he would accomplish would be too drastic. He said companies couldn’t afford a government mandate and enforcement of equal pay for equal work for women.
Kaewyn Picard said she voted for Obama because of his themes of hope and change. She believes there are “infinite possibilities in the universe,” and she thinks Obama can capitalize on them.
“Obama has two children,” she said. “And he’s running to make their future better. He wants change for his daughters.”
Picard said Obama’s intellect and outsider status as someone “not so ingrained in the system,” would benefit the country.
“Wouldn’t it be nice to have an intelligent president?” she asked rhetorically.
Despite the issues, some voted for the party instead of the person.
Beatrice Bonner, 87, is helped out of a ‘90s Chevrolet sedan. “These are stiff legs,” she tells her younger friend, Theresa Wildy. Wildy voted by mail. Bonner wanted to, but she said her mail-in ballot never came.
Both are registered Democrats. Wildy was enthusiastic about her vote for Obama while Bonner smiled and, not naming a candidate, said “I have to keep the democratic spirit.”
It was Mari Brown’s first time voting. The 33-year-old Peru native was nationalized last year. She said she was registered as a Republican and voted for McCain. She said she’ll vote for her party’s candidate unless he’s “stupid,” and “McCain’s not stupid.”