Having decided to vote for him many months ago, I am pleased as hell that Barack Obama will become our next president come January.
And yes, part of it is that as an aging white man who grew up in the civil-rights years, participating in the election of a black man to the presidency of the United States is deeply satisfying in a primal way I can’t put into words. I’m not naïve enough to believe this will end prejudice or mend race relations, but hopefully white hegemony in America ended forever on Tuesday. I don’t know about you, but I kind of like the ring of Black House.
One of the many great stories of this campaign is how the Obama team succeeded in putting its candidate into the presidency at a point where he seems ready for the position. Everybody talks about how brilliant the Bushies were in their 2000 and 2004 victories. But the Obama team didn’t need to resort to the slimeball tactics that destroyed war-hero John McCain’s chances in the primaries of 2000 and war-hero John Kerry in 2004.
This time, since they couldn’t attack his race directly, the 2008 Swiftboaters attempted to brand Obama a secret Muslim, a cokehead, a terrorist sympathizer, even a socialist, for god’s sake. He was portrayed as soft on crime and untrustworthy because of his associations.
Because none of it was true, none of it stuck. This time Americans saw the subterfuge, and the 2008 Swiftboaters had their asses handed back to them. Obama and his wife endured the months-long onslaught with a quiet dignity, and the Obama team, right from the first attack (remember the one about him being schooled in a radical Muslim madrassa), began offering real evidence to refute each and every claim.
Score one for us and for common sense, and kudos to the Obama team. I can hardly wait to read the book that compares how each side ran this campaign. Presidential politics will never be quite the same again.
As relieved as I am, there isn’t much time to celebrate what amounts to a historic moment in American history. Barack Obama can’t live on promises and speeches any longer, and to pick up the pieces of the Bush administration’s scorched-earth policies, he needs to hit the ground running on many fronts.
As Thomas Friedman points out in Sunday’s New York Times, all this candidate babble about how the government, with a few tax cuts and trillions of dollars of bailout cash, will somehow bring things back to the point where we can all start buying shit we can’t afford to keep the economy running has to end as well.
Can Obama become a leader who transcends the partisanship of Washington? He has certainly shown great restraint and intelligence during the a brutal campaign, and his inner circle is expanding to include disparate people for whom I have great respect (Warren Buffet and Colin Powell, for example). Obama has been given a mandate that no president has seen since Lyndon Johnson in 1964, and a set of tasks as daunting as any president has ever faced entering office. More than ever, we need a real leader. Gobama.