Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Morning After

I used to be able to stay up all night, grab a cuppa and head off on the next day's journey with little effort. Obviously those days are long gone, so I went to bed after the early returns confirmed what I was pretty sure would happen. While not the across the board blow-out I had hoped for, enough races went the way I wanted to make waking up this morning a very pleasant experience.

In scanning the multiple on-line newspapers I check each morning, I was struck by a number of things. One was the obvious relief in most of the rest of the world to Obama's victory. No surprise there: the international community had made their choice clear weeks ago. Another was the ongoing finger-pointing about McCain-Palin's failed campaign. Bush lost the election. McCain's choice of the obviously unqualified Palin as his running mate lost the election. It was the economy, stupid. Obama's campaign was better organized and better funded (it was, thanks in large part to the groundwork laid eight years ago by Howard Dean).

What struck me most, however, was the most obvious point of all: the fact that a Black man has just been elected President of the United States. A pretty good presentation of this particular theme was offered by Tim Rutten in his Los Angeles Times column this morning. While I disagree with Mr. Rutten that Sen. McCain should be congratulated for not engaging in race baiting (he didn't have to, his surrogates took care of that for him), I do appreciate the columnist's pointing out to what may very well have been a key point in the campaign.

If this election had a decisive turning point, it wasn't the Wall Street meltdown but Obama's response to the controversy that arose over the racially inflammatory and divisive sermons of his then-pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr. One hundred and fifty years after another Illinois lawyer turned presidential candidate, Lincoln, changed the way Americans thought about race with his famous "House Divided" speech, Obama delivered his "More Perfect Union" address in Philadelphia, across the street from Constitutional Hall.

Obama wrote the speech himself, and, at the time, analysts recognized it as the most sophisticated and far-seeing address on race ever delivered by a candidate for national office in our lifetime. It changed the tone of the contest and elevated his campaign to something that was more than the sum of his ethnic heritage.

As he said that day, in the same city where the framers failed to resolve the contradiction between their ideals and their economic interests, "The profound mistake of Rev. Wright's sermons is not that he spoke about racism in our society. It's that he spoke as if our society was static; as if no progress has been made; as if this country ... is still irrevocably bound to a tragic past."

The voters who gave Barack Obama more than 300 electoral votes Tuesday may not have forgotten that tragic past, but -- attentive at last to the better angels of our nature -- they no longer are content to let memory be our destiny.

Nicely said.

Now President-Elect Obama will have to make certain that the country moves beyond the trauma of the past eight years as well so that "9/11" no longer controls our destiny at home and in the world.

I am still cautiously optimistic.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yesterday I went to the polls with my house-mate and her 10 year old son. He strongly identied with Obama because he had been raised in a single-mother family. This aspect of the new President has been completely overshadowed by the pigmentation issue. But single-parent families are so much part of the fabric of the US, Obama's victory could be a big boost to many young people who may feel a step behind their peers due to circumstances which are no fault of theirs.

9:53 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home