It's been well over a week since Obama's victory, and while 99.9% of me continues to thrill, peevishness has crept into the mix. Actually, to be completely honest, the peeve-ratio has expanded exponentially over the past few months, like one of those "Just Add Water!" gimmick toys that bloat to fifty times their original scale. It's being fed by a constant parade of people vying for a toe-hold in what could be described as the Team Obama Social Pecking Order.
Since I'm nowhere near being peckable or even close to the chicken coop, you'll probably chalk my whining up to pure envy. But it's not that simple. My Obamarama role has been merely as an enthusiastic observer, low-level donor, and erstwhile volunteer for the campaign. Certainly, there was no ticket to the Grant Park fete, no private trolley with SpikeBradOprah to a VIP tent, and no invitation forthcoming to the Inauguration. Plus, I'm fairly certain there's no Lincoln Bedroom in my future. I didn't expect any of the above, but my team won, that's the most important thing, and I'm genuinely grateful to the legions of Obama supporters who toiled long, hard and quietly to get this 44th President elected. Let me be more specific: I'm grateful to the ones who didn't trumpet their insiderness and perks to everyone within earshot.
Gratitude is one thing. Tolerating one-upsmanship another.
Self-aggrandizement is never a pretty sight. Especially here in Chicago -- Obama Central for a few more months -- where a cadre of legitimately long-time friends and colleagues of the incipient First Family reside. Which makes this jockeying for recognition so unseemly: there's the quiet group of trusty old friends, recognizable mainly by their reticence, and now a bleating group of newly-minted "friends," parading their buddiehood like the latest hybrid SUV. As the countdown to Election Day approached, everyone seemed to be on a first-name basis with the family, spouting memories from "private" events with Barack, quoting Michelle at length, discussing "secrets" from the campaign, and being otherwise privy to personal phone conversations and meetings one would only expect from upper level campaign strategists.
Whatever the nature of these relationships really are, the signals being telegraphed have not been subtle: "I am on the inside. You are not." Exclusive vs. inclusive. Puffery vs. pride. Sonic boom vs. under-the-radar. You get my drift. It's the pesky political equivalent of those holiday missives meant to catch you up on the family but whose genuine purpose is to show off how brilliant the kids are.
While most folks flatly refuse to engage in this bratty behavior, occasional battles have broken out. I witnessed amusing tugs-of-war between Obamaphiles as they slyly compared who had attended which fundraiser ("Was Barack at yours or was it just Michelle?") canvassed in which state ("We drove to Indiana last week..." "Oh? We flew to Ohio...") or established the earliest possible connection to Obama's political career ("We contributed back in early '07." "Well, we have a photo with him from a fundraiser in '04").
On the eve of Election Day, jockeying reached a fever pitch, roiling like a piranha pond at feeding time, as supporters learned who got invited to the VIP tents and, more important, which tent they were assigned to. This level of anguish reminded me of friends who, in the 1980's, had managed to slink past the Studio 54 bouncers, then ranted because they wouldn't be ushered into the back room. "You're IN," I wanted to scream, from outside the stanchions. "What difference can it possibly make? Enjoy it!"
As for the here and now, why did I think this self-puffery would quickly subside? Already, there's a new round of ego-speak, which goes something like this: "Flights to Washington are so expensive in January" and "I wonder what people will be wearing, long or short?" -- signaling, naturally, who's getting to go to the Inauguration, versus who is languishing behind. No doubt this will continue for at least the next eight years -- at least I hope it's for the next eight years. That's the sole consolation for those of us enduring these noxious ramblings. After that, who got to sleep in the Lincoln Bedroom first will be a battle waged by others.