Politics

11.07.12

Outside the White House After Obama’s Win, D.C.’s Biggest Frat Party

College students celebrated Obama’s win outside the White House—a scene less emotional about hope and change and more ‘mayhem.’ Ben Jacobs reports.

There were scattered beer cans, party cups, and bottles of cheap wine as young people chanted at Washington’s biggest frat party on election night. Outside the White House, that is.

Dinora Orozco, an ardent Democrat originally from Chicago who had celebrated in front of the White House four years before, found the scene then to be “emotional,” but she described Tuesday night as “mayhem.” This time around, she thought that the raucous crowd was motivated more by relief that Obama had pulled out a win—but that may not have been entirely it.

For every ardent Obama supporter standing on Pennsylvania Avenue, there was at least one college student who was just out to party. It seemed as though groups of students from Washington-area universities had descended upon the White House en masse. Howard University students spontaneously walked down once the race was called. “It just happened,” said Mary Morall, a freshman—and she wasn’t alone: she said that the better part of the entire Howard freshman class had come. Their school-pride fueled chants of “H.U. You Know” were louder than the cheers of “four more years” and “yes we can” in Lafayette Square.

One group of Georgetown sophomores said it was “a tradition” that they come down to the White House to celebrate every four years. However, when pressed, they could only recall the tradition dating to President Obama’s 2008 victory. This group included one student who seemed to be the only Republican out on election night, who sheepishly said he was out to celebrate America. It seemed more likely he was just there for the party.

Eric Pecoraro, a musician new to Washington, said the instinct to come to the White House was natural. He explains it simply like this: “you go to Times Square on New Year’s Eve.”

The scene increasingly resembled a red, white, and blue Mardi Gras. Revelers ran around brandishing American flags, and while marching home sang the “Star-Spangled Banner” into the night. Every tree near the White House was filled with climbers and, until the police intervened, a landscaping truck parked on Pennsylvania Avenue was swarmed as well. Passers-by were wandering through the crowd gawking and it seemed that for almost every person celebrating there was someone else taking a picture of a crowd.

Eric Pecoraro, a musician new to Washington, said the instinct to come to the White House was natural. He explains it simply like this: “You go to Times Square on New Year’s Eve.” For Pecoraro, there was added excitement. Even though he had lived in Washington for two months, this was his first time seeing the White House. He was “very stoked” about the entire experience.

Although the crowd was filled with boisterous young people, there were also families who came down to take in the moment. Three generations of the Landers’ came down to take in the scene. Although Yolanda Landers, a 37-year-old mother of three, scoffed at some of the celebrants whose breath, she joked, “smelled of anti-freeze.” It still was an emotional moment for the family that had made the same journey down to the White House from their suburban home four years before.

The party at the White House showed no signs of lagging long after the president finished giving his victory speech in Chicago. A group of well made up girls in skirts slowly made their way down 16th Street toward the White House, holding their high heels in their hands. They had just heard Obama had won and wanted to join the party. When asked why they were going, one exclaimed “cause Obama, cause he’s the man.” They then staggered on toward the party.