GOP Party -- Not So Much

Canadians Jeff Collins and Rick Erickson
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At the official Harris County GOP election party in the Westin Galleria hotel, the Republican faithful were celebrating what they could. As live national news feeds on one of two big-screen TVs rattled off state after state going for Obama, revelers maintained optimism that key local positions would remain in Republican hands.

“I think Republicans are going to do very well,” Marc Cowart, deputy director of the county GOP, tells Hair Balls.

And nationally, what if Obama wins? “It’s America. We’re all hopeful we’ll remain the greatest country on Earth.”

Floyd Griffith, a young, black Republican who until recently was volunteering for McCain in Washington, D.C, felt the party could have done more to cross racial boundaries. “I’m proud to be a Republican, but there needs to be a long-term, sustained effort to attract African-Americans. It has to be a pillar [of the GOP].” He also cited potential local success as a reason to not write the night off as a loss.

But silver linings do not bitchin’ soirees make; with the other big-screen at one point showing local news footage of the hopping Democratic rally near Reliant Stadium, not even Neil Diamond’s “Coming to America” could push the merriment meter past “pleasant mingling.” No one seemed to even have a truly negative remark to make about Obama. Things were a bit slow – that is, until Hair Balls got a dose of perspective from a couple of friendly Canadians.

Rick Erickson and Jeff Collins of Calgary describe themselves as “electoral tourists.” They’re in Texas to visit friends, but they scheduled their trip so they could see American democracy in action. They had spent part of the day at the Metropolitan Multi-Service Center on West Gray – a voting location – and were planning on attending both party rallies tonight.

“Canadians are very interested in the American election,” Erickson tells us. “We’re in bed with an elephant, and if the elephant gets a cold, so do we.”

He says it’s not so much about party for Canucks, but solid leadership and good relations with the U.S. Erickson speaks of little things – “niggling debates” – that have negatively impacted trade, travel and his country’s view of Bush.

“We understand fair play; we don’t understand getting dicked around,” says Erickson, who we soon find out is a firearms enthusiast. “Getting a gun across the border is [now] a complete fucking nightmare, honest to God…Canada is looking forward to change.”

Collins, a local broadcaster for CBC Radio One (Canadian NPR, basically), tells Hair Balls that our northern neighbors see this election differently than Americans do.

“It’s not between left and right; it’s viewed as an election about race,” he says. “I’ve heard very little about that here, though. Up north, it’s seen as an indicator of where race relations are in the U.S.”

He says his elderly mother even warned him to watch out for violence on the night of the election, no matter who wins. Collins laughed that off: “It’s more likely that Ike would come back and kick me in the shins.”

Blake Whitaker

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