Barach Obama has been convincingly elected President of the United States. His margin of 52.3 to 46.4 confirms the polls and dispels any concern about the accuracy of polls in a race involving an African American. Most significantly, the electoral vote map has been re-written, with the Democrat winning several states previously considered Republican and garnering an electoral vote lead of over 100, 79 more than needed for victory. (My prediction of 52-46 Obama with a 50-100 electoral vote margin was happily accurate).
This election was the first of a new era for America, as the Democrats have built a growing coalition of African Americans, Hispanics and young voters. Blacks have always supported Democrats, often asking themselves to what advantage in the years since passage of civil rights forty years ago. Now that question has been answered in the person of Barack Obama, the ultimate fruition of civil rights and equal opportunity.
As blacks helped swing some states to Democrats, motivated by the candidacy of Obama, Hispanics assisted them, and in some Rocky Mountain states, Hispanics definitely supplied the margin of Democratic victory. Any concern about Hispanics not voting for a black were overcome by the overall qualities of Obama himself and by his background as a child of a foreign born parent.
Young people identified with Obama and his message of change, hope and inclusiveness and hugely embraced the opportunity to be part of this historic change by participating in his election. Son Chris in Bangkok talked to me yesterday about his satisfaction in receiving his absentee ballot in time to put his Obama vote in the mail, and he told me about the excitement in the international community over the prospect of an Obama election, which they were expecting to celebrate at victory parties last night. Daughter Anna in Florida also spoke to me about what she was seeing there and about the heroic effort to get her absentee Obama vote postmarked before the post office closure at 6:00 PM.
As the victory was proclaimed, the TV images of celebrations throughout America, some organized and some spontaneous, carried tremendous emotional impact. Americans have taken our country back from the Bush-Cheney Republican travesty and have entered the 21st Century with a newly hopeful feeling that together we can put our country back on track and start to undo all the damage that has been done. Daunting though the task may be, the majority of Americans are ready to help President Obama as he takes it on. As President Obama takes office and shows how we can all work together, many who did not vote for him out of concern for his lack of experience or out of fear about his agenda will be reassured, and his support will grow.
As TV commentators remarked on the contrast between the peaceful and uplifting pictures of the crowd in the Chicago Park waiting to hear Obama and the memory of the violence perpetrated on anti -war protestors there in 1968, my mind went back to that time also. Hubert Humphrey, an old war horse liberal turned war hawk, a precursor to Joe Lieberman, had just been nominated for President by the Democrats, even as public opinion was starting to turn against the Vietnam War. The year before, my good friend Joe and I had worn tuxedos in each other's wedding, and in 1968 we were both wearing Air Force uniforms as recalled reservists. Last night Joe, of African-American heritage, called to share with me the excitement that he and his family were feeling at this historic moment. The racially inclusive nature of our wedding parties had been unusual back in the 1960s, and the racially mixed marriage of Barack Obama's parents around the same time would have been illegal in many places in this country. How far we have come is a reminder of the great distance we needed to go.
After the defeated Humphrey became old school, Democrats had very limited success with an old new southerner, Carter, and then some success with a young new southerner, Clinton. But Obama transcends all that. His roots are African and Midwestern, his early life environs include Asia and multi-cultural Hawaii, his education is Ivy League, his on-the-job training was in the hard knock school of Chicago community organizing and rough and tumble politicking, followed by the years of apprenticeship in bi-partisan State legislating and an introductory course in the workings of the US senate.
While America has overcome a great racial barrier, we may also have put the Vietnam era behind us. The last three Presidential losers all served honorably in Vietnam. McCain was a hawkish hero, Kerry a dovish hero and Gore a quiet non-heroic type. Future Presidents, like Obama, will all be post-Vietnam. Ironically, the two Vietnam War age men who made it to the Presidency never served in Vietnam. Clinton avoided service completely by legitimate deferments. Bush avoided service in Vietnam by illegal maneuvering into and within the Air National Guard.
McCain gave a gracious concession speech before an ungracious gathering at a ritzy hotel. His personal mission now will be to regain the honor he lost by his shabby campaign. He will be cooperative with Democrats going forward, but he has no Republican Congressional allies to bring along. That is one of the disadvantages of Maverickdom.
As expected, Obama gave a stirring speech about the historic significance of this election and about the great tasks we face and the need to work together for the good of all Americans, which he pledged to do. His tone was fittingly sober and Presidential, continuing to instill the hope and encouragement we need.
This new First Family is the most exciting since the Kennedys. Michelle Obama is a woman with classic middle American values, informed by her experience as an African American. She has a quiet charm that will endear her to Americans, and her appearances on the world stage will help restore America's image as the world leader on inclusiveness and opportunity for all. The Obama daughters are going to delight America, in stark contrast to the embarrassment the Bush twins generated, which required them to be closeted. Once again, a Democrat in the White House brings young daughters, Malia, 10, and Sasha, 7, following in the footsteps of Chelsea Clinton, Amy Carter and Caroline Kennedy. Someday maybe another Democratic President will bring a son who can play in the Oval office as Caroline's brother did.
As Barack Obama builds his transition team and contemplates appointments, many eyes will be on an early choice. But this one will probably be made by the Obama daughters, subject to parental oversight. Dad and Mom promised a Presidential puppy if he was elected, a fact the President-elect confirmed last night.