Election 2008

It’s been three days since Barack Obama was elected president of the United States. I won’t delude myself into thinking I can contribute anything particularly unique to the mountains and mountains of reflection and analysis, but that doesn’t mean I won’t at least try. My initial reactions:

Historic. That is the word that I’ve been using with greater and greater fervor over the past week. This election was quite simply the second most historic single-day event of my politically conscious lifetime (narrowly behind 9/11, for now). From freshman year of high school onwards, my entire reality has been Bush Administrations I and II. Torture. Iraq. Guantanamo. Katrina. In political terms, this has been my status quo. To go from the “norm” of divisiveness, fear-mongering, and cynicism to the “Yes We Can” hope and inspiration of a Barack Obama presidency is a truly mind-blowing and radical shift. That is the reason why thousands of young people descended on the White House in celebration Tuesday night, that is why the streets of our nation’s capitol were flooded with joyous, delirious mobs of youth whose adult existence has been arguably one of the most destructive presidencies in our nation’s history.

History tends to happen both gradually and in fits and starts. It cannot and should not be overlooked that a mere four decades ago, our nation’s racial landscape looked like this:


Now, this very same country decided to elect Barack Obama to its highest political office, during a time of staggering unrest and uncertainty. This transformative national progress, sometimes lost amidst Obama’s purposefully post-racial rhetoric, is truly incredible. And speaking of that spine-tingling, goosebump-raising, tear-inducing rhetoric (starting around 6:00):


I don’t believe I’ve ever personally witnessed a more important or touching speech in my lifetime. He brilliantly wove in Lincoln in order to extend a the olive-branch to a nation in a time when conciliation and cooperation have never been more important. His use of 106 year-old Ann Nixon Cooper to deftly sweep through the 20th-century America was a brilliant and apt use of history to build into a crescendo of optimism. His delivery wasn’t even up to his usual oratorical standard. But reading those words imparts a sense of overwhelming historical weight – one could very easily picture these on the side of a monument one day, being memorized by our grandchildren:

“And to all those watching tonight from beyond our shores, from parliaments and palaces to those who are huddled around radios in the forgotten corners of our world – our stories are singular, but our destiny is shared, and a new dawn of American leadership is at hand.  To those who would tear this world down – we will defeat you.  To those who seek peace and security – we support you.  And to all those who have wondered if America’s beacon still burns as bright – tonight we proved once more that the true strength of our nation comes not from our the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals: democracy, liberty, opportunity, and unyielding hope.

For that is the true genius of America – that America can change.  Our union can be perfected.  And what we have already achieved gives us hope for what we can and must achieve tomorrow.”

To echo our new first-lady in waiting, I’ve never been prouder of my country in my adult lifetime.

8 thoughts on “Election 2008

  1. Maybe I’m just an old crank, but I’m not too impressed. A half-black man with a silver tongue won the presidency. And? Has everyone in the world gone retarded? This man hasn’t done anything yet. The man is not even president yet, for Christ’s sake. I’ll be honest, all this crying and people shitting their pants because a mulatto got elected. And for all these people know, this mulatto may bomb the hell out of their asses. I mean, if this guy does bring about world peace, cure cancer, and turn Africa into a paradise, then I’ll be pretty damn impressed. If it turns out that simply by virtue of this man being president, all the Muslims stop strapping bombs to their children, I’ll be impressed. Call me a cynic, call me whatever you want, but a man promising “change” being elected to office doesn’t make me go all crybaby style. Sorry if I sound like a prick.

  2. You don’t just sound like one.

    Do you truly not understand why millions of people think the election of our country’s first African-American president is so significant? A generation ago, blacks couldn’t eat at the same restaurant counters, swim in the same pools, drink from the same water fountains as their fellow white citizens. They were considered second-class citizens (at best) within a system that was supported and enforced by the American government, all in the historical shadow of chattel slavery. Less than fifty years later, 65 million Americans voted to place a black man at the head of that very same government. That’s called an historic event, and one that is worthy of going “all crybaby style,” as you so elegantly phrased it.

  3. I have to agree with Cameron, Spacelord, you don’t just “sound like one . . .” But you know what;, while Obama hasn’t done anything yet(not counting his appointments) he has given us dreams and hope that hasn’t happened since Kennedy! As a nation we have to have goals and dreams to aspire to, not just the status quo, which is what happened the last 8 years(and more) Kennedy gave us ideals to aspire for, and Obama has that same promise of office. This is like reliving the 60’s and 70’s when, yes there was lot of “bad shit going on” ie; Vietnam, Cuban Missle Crisis,.etc, but the changes that happened were astronomical. The space program, we put a man on the moon, WOW, civil rights, environmental awareness. It was an exciting time to be alive, and this election, and upcoming presidency has that same feel. I for one am looking at the glass half full, and can’t wait to see how history writes this next chapter!

  4. Cameron,

    Ok, the fact that we have finally gotten over enough of this stupid racist garbage that we can elect a black guy president is damn cool by me. I do understand that it is inspirational. I was talking to a black dude yesterday who said he felt like he couldn’t do what he wanted in this country before but now he feels he can do anything he wants. And yeah, I think that is VERY COOL. I’m a conservative so I didn’t vote for Obama, but I do see how there are good things here. Are you telling me that people in, say France (to pick just one) are crying because we elected a black man? I can get the blacks being emotional, but the French? I know i’m an abrasive prick, but I just don’t understand it and neither do any of my colleagues.

  5. Margaret,

    You are comparing Obama to Kennedy? That is a bit ironic considering that he and the rest of the Democrats voted to the man against Eisenhower’s 1957 Civil RIghts Act, which the Republicans were trying to push through. I am interested in knowing the ideas you feel Kennedy embodied that made you feel hope. I do recognize that Kennedy was the first Roman Catholic president, so as far as that’s concerned his election was also a historic first.

  6. Joe,

    I’m not sure what you mean when you say I act like a troll. Are you suggesting I live under a bridge? I know you fellows probably don’t agree with my view, but Obama told us to try and reach out to the other side, so I’m trying to figure out what’s going on around here.

  7. In order:

    – People in say, France, are overjoyed about this election for a variety of reasons. For one, we elected someone with a truly international personal background (father from Kenya, spent years in Indonesia, etc.). But probably most importantly, we elected someone who embodies the opposite of George Bush. The past eight years saw us squander an unprecedented outpouring of goodwill from abroad after 9/11, and the administration’s reliance on torture, extraordinary rendition, and Guantanamo Bay had a profoundly negative impact on our nation’s moral currency abroad. Electing Obama is a symbolic repudiation of these policies.

    – I can’t speak for Margaret, but the Kennedy/Obama comparison isn’t perfect. I think she was probably referring to the similarities in personal charisma and the ability to inspire a generation of Americans to enact societal change.

    – Finally, a “troll” is someone who intentionally posts incendiary comments online without any attempt to contribute to a dialogue, but only to piss people off. I think Joe thought you were one because you posted identical comments to different blogs, which is a troll-like habit. However, given that you took the time to respond to our comments individually, I’d say this was a mistaken characterization. Despite our obvious disagreements, I think it’s admirable that you’re at least attempting to engage with ideas or perspectives you have trouble relating to. Thanks.

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