Although people were cordial, the conversation polite, an air of sadness filled the room. It was apparent that things were not going well, and that several local candidates seeking re-election had already left for the evening, some extremely disappointment.
As I peered up on the big-screen television beaming in reports of the national and state elections, I watched as the outlines of the states colored red and blue continue to be called by the various commentators as time went by.
Suddenly, it occurred to me — an epiphany, perhaps — that a recurrent pattern of voting behavior was appearing before my eyes, both in terms of the national map as well as the interstate returns county-by-county within the various states.
While we may call this land the United States of America, the truth is we remain a country seriously divided in oh so many ways.
Earlier in the evening, with the exception of Florida, states comprising the Southern Confederacy of the Civil War broke for John McCain. All of the states of the old Union in the North were called for Barack Obama. But the divisions intuitively run much deeper than that.
On the intrastate maps, it was a serious break between urban and rural counties. Within each state, a crazy-quilt pattern emerged, graphically demonstrating how different people are in rural areas from the cities. It is almost as if they do not speak the same political language.
It is very difficult to say that race was the predominant factor in voting behavior this year. The war in Iraq had been marginalized, eclipsed by the stock market meltdown and the ensuing $700 billion infusion of capital into domestic credit markets.
People seemed to be more motivated by fear of losing their homes, their livelihoods and their standards of living. By placing a bet with their votes for Obama, they are wagering the future of this nation on a political commodity which even the pundits admit they know very little about.
The truth remains, we are a nation divided geographically, by age, by race, by financial wealth and, last but not least, by cultural proclivities resulting from Christian faith — those who are ideologically motivated by such issues as gay marriage and abortion, and others who find these issues of little or no importance.
The academy will no doubt spend months or years analyzing the results of this recently concluded election cycle.
However, the biggest losers in this race were the talking heads in the mainstream media. With their arrogant, left-leaning rant and haughty, self-absorbed promotion of Obama's superiority as a candidate — both in terms of rhetorical style and command of the issues — their veracity and credibility with a huge portion of the American public have been taken to an all-time low.
From the nightly coverage of the presidential race, one would have thought the election returns would be an electoral tsunami of landslide proportions for Obama, instead of an outcome that more closely resembled that of Bill Clinton's 1996 race.
Beyond that, the bottom line is that the media made this race more a referendum on the failed policies of the Bush administration and sowed into the minds of much of the electorate an intense, venal hatred regarding virtually everything the administration did during George W. Bush's second term in office.
While we are on the subject, the media's treatment of vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin was a humiliating outrage.
Their attempt to portray this accomplished, professional political operative as a precocious, bubble-headed Barbie doll with glasses and Sax Fifth Avenue haute couture was seriously over the top.
Her appearance on the comedy show "Saturday Night Live" in an off-hand way gave some 75 million viewers (the largest one-night rating in the history of the program) a good look at the pettiness of their criticism and what a genuinely classy lady she truly is.
We have not heard the last of her, and with good reason she energized literally millions within the Republican Party base.
Finally, while he won the election, along with perhaps the most liberal Congress in post-World War II history, Obama must keep in mind from his inauguration forward that some 56.4 million Americans did not vote for him, and that many of his liberal views are way out of step with what has in recent years been described as a center-right nation.
His calls for unity and change may actually render even more political conflict and acrimony.
With hopes and expectations running so high among a frightened nation, and with the manifold economic and national security threats that loom around the globe, the electorate's wager by betting on Obama the green horse with shortened odds and little track record — may be setting themselves up for a major disappointment.
David Coker is a community activist and a local free-lance writer.