In York, Pa., New Outlook After Obama's Win In a diverse panel of voters, even those who voted for John McCain said they found cause for optimism in Barack Obama's victory. For some blacks in the group, the election's outcome also brought a longed-for sense of acceptance.
NPR logo

In York, Pa., New Outlook After Obama's Win

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
In York, Pa., New Outlook After Obama's Win

In York, Pa., New Outlook After Obama's Win

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript


This is Morning Edition from NPR News. I'm Ari Shapiro.


And I'm Steve Inskeep, joined this morning by our colleague Michele Norris. Welcome back to the program.

MICHELE NORRIS: Good to be back here, Steve.

INSKEEP: She's host of NPR's All Things Considered.

NORRIS: And we're listening together to the way this month's election can change the outlook of a roomful of Americans.

INSKEEP: The room is in York, Pennsylvania. We met more than a dozen voters one final time at the York Town Hotel.

NORRIS: All this fall we've been talking over a subject too big for just one sitting, and we shall remind you that I'm black.

INSKEEP: I'm white, and we've been asking our group of voters about race.

NORRIS: And about the election. Back in October, some in our group worried about turmoil no matter who won. Now, no matter how people voted, you sense release.

INSKEEP: Just listen to how people respond to a smiling Michael Smith.

NORRIS: America is beautiful.


INSKEEP: If tens of millions of white people voted for Obama for whatever reason, does that change your view of white America writ large? Or the next white person you see on the street?

NORRIS: Me, I was always open-minded so I can honestly gloat and say, it's good to be right because I'd honestly...


NORRIS: And I'm often right so...

INSKEEP: Michael Smith is African-American. He counsels black teenagers in York.

NORRIS: And now he's telling them no more excuses. Yet Smith himself is feeling a little self-conscious around white people.

NORRIS: I think they're watching us as how are we going to handle it? You know, we have to stand up and be counted and represent in a sense, to show America that, you know, it wasn't a mistake. So that's what I'm feeling.

NORRIS: Do you do things any differently? Are you dressing differently, carrying yourself differently?

NORRIS: Oh, I put on - you don't know?


NORRIS: Now that you mention it.

INSKEEP: Are those rhinestones on your shirt?


NORRIS: Since you asked me, I feel like the president of the United States sitting here. I honestly feel like I won. I put on a suit the next day, boy that was - oh, I looked like something.


NORRIS: I looked like something. I feel like the president.

U: Margie said she was going out to buy a flag.


NORRIS: Are you?

NORRIS: Yeah. I just may get a flag now. But that's...

NORRIS: That's Margie Orr, she's African-American, and she works for a civil rights group. She told us on October that while she loves her country, she couldn't quite see hanging a flag outside her door.

INSKEEP: She didn't feel fully accepted until election night.

NORRIS: I went to an Obama celebration last Tuesday, of course. When it flashed on the screen that he had indeed won, I mean, the joy, the jubilation, the hugging, the kissing, and there were more whites there than blacks. That night just made you feel like there is nothing wrong with the United States. There actually is nothing wrong. But then I pick up the paper today, and I'm reading three letters to the editor, and of course, it's coming out there.

INSKEEP: As best you can recall, what specifically did one of the letters say?

NORRIS: It said...

NORRIS: Steve, I have excerpts. Do you want excerpts?

INSKEEP: You brought us excerpts? You came prepared.


NORRIS: I did bring the excerpts because I was very upset by these letters.

NORRIS: Nancy Snyder is a white voter who's collecting responses to the election, including one of those letters in the York Daily Record. She reads from the letter, which questions the way Obama describes himself.

NORRIS: (Reading) The first thing that he said in plain words was that he was a black man. I would like to know why not one of our past presidents was ever identified as a white president. People should stop looking at the color of their skin and step up to the plate and work, and earn money, instead of playing the welfare money game. Obama is black and white, where does he come off saying he's a black man. Is he that confused on color, or does he want to discredit his mother's color as a white person?

INSKEEP: That provocative letter started our voter group wondering what was really on its author's mind. Maribel Burgos, who's Hispanic, thinks about the person, presumably white, who wrote about Obama.

NORRIS: They want him to now acknowledge the white part of him, so that they're now included in his administration, too.

INSKEEP: This is a letter from a white person who feels excluded, that's what you're saying.

NORRIS: Yes. They're saying, why should we address him as black, he's also white. It's like, well, bring my part out too.

NORRIS: We all know that if you got black, you know you're black. But the fact that now that there's a black man in the White House, racism now can say, well, he ain't all black. So they only got half the White House. You know what I mean? Where's the other part?

INSKEEP: Has anybody felt left out by the celebrations of the last few days?

U: Sarah?

NORRIS: No. I actually don't.

INSKEEP: You voted for John McCain?

NORRIS: I did. I did.

INSKEEP: Sarah Yacoviello. She's white.

NORRIS: I'm sad. In another regard, I have this dichotomy that I can't reconcile in my mind. I feel like there's a social justice that has been won here with electing a black president, but I also feel the social injustice of abortion. So, I'm excited on one hand and on the other hand I'm still grieved and burdened with the thought of the social injustices that are still present and may grow stronger in the next four years.

INSKEEP: Any other McCain voters feel left out? Leah Moreland, we haven't heard from you yet this evening.

NORRIS: No. I don't feel left out. I - like with my friends today, we - most of us, I think, voted for McCain, and we're just willing to just see what happens. And we're certainly not going to try to stop the train that's coming down the track.

NORRIS: When we talked to you last time, Leah, you said that if Barack Obama won, you were worried that there might be chaos - that it would be a difficult transition. Have you seen any signs of that? Is that still a worry that you have?

NORRIS: I hope nothing is going to happen. Let's say that. And I think it's early. It is early. Hopefully, you know, things are going to be fine. And I wanted to add something to this discussion about Obama being this and that.

NORRIS: Leah Moreland is about to send our long-running conversation into one of its surprising turns. In September, she told us she worried Obama was secretly Muslim.

INSKEEP: She even implied he was a terrorist plant.

NORRIS: Now, in November, she's thinking about Barack Obama's first press conference as president-elect.

NORRIS: I don't know if anybody heard it this week. You know, they're discussing about the dog they're going to take to the White House. And, he said he'd really like to bring a mutt to the White House because I'm a mutt too.

NORRIS: With a tiny flick of humor, the president-elect touched on centuries of struggles over racial identity.

NORRIS: Did anybody else hear him call himself a mutt?

U: Oh, yes.

NORRIS: I thought - I really chuckled at that. I just thought it was humorous. I really enjoyed it.

NORRIS: Calvin Weary here. Speaking of dogs...

INSKEEP: Calvin Weary is a high school teacher. He's black. He's also a Republican who voted for President Bush, and then voted for Barack Obama.

NORRIS: He is married to a white woman, and they have three kids. And Barack Obama's remark got him thinking about mutts.

NORRIS: And I think right now, I've been just mulling this over. I mean whether he calls himself a mutt or not, the difference between a mutt and a pedigree is how well it performs. And, so, now we will find out if we have elected a mutt or a pedigree. And the new pedigree will be called "the Obama."

INSKEEP: And that question, how the new president will perform, is the next question our voter group will consider in York, Pennsylvania.

NORRIS: Barack Obama could face opportunities and obstacles because of his race.

INSKEEP: And we'll talk about that this afternoon on All Things Considered.

U: Right. Bush makes a mistake and he's just considered stupid. Unfortunately, Obama makes a mistake and he's considered black and stupid.

INSKEEP: You can see portraits of our York voters and join the online discussion yourself at

Copyright © 2008 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.