Even just five years ago, it probably seemed very unlikely that a black person would ever become President of the United States. But in a landslide victory over Arizona Senator John McCain, Barack Obama has been elected the nation's 44th President.
In relative terms, two years feels ancient; yet that's the time it took president-elect Obama to climb the political ladder to become the first black presidential candidate and now, the first black Commander-in-Chief.
Was it a miracle? It depends on whom you ask and how you want them to answer.
Obama rode the backs of thousands of volunteers and millions of donors eager to see change in a country that had enough. In the process, he made promises and shattered expectations (both good and bad).
But looking back, what was the 2008 Presidential Election really about?
Were people simply fed up with George W. Bush? They had their shot in 2004, but I guess John Kerry wasn't a favorable alternative.
Were people sick of the Republican Party? Well, this is obvious, given Obama's victory coupled with the Democratic seat gains in the both the House of Representatives and Senate. But then that brings us back to the primary battle between Obama and Sen. Hillary Clinton.
Wasn't all the negative sentiment toward a combination of President Bush and the GOP enough for Democrats to rally against one candidate? Why did it take so long? The truth is, that race was extremely close and revealed many of the lingering questions people had about what kind of direction they wanted the country to have. Chiefly, people had an idea that only one person fit the bill, and they were willing to fight (given that the primary was finally decided at the wire).
Surprisingly, that political enthusiasm extended far into the presidential race, which probably came down to character. Of the Obama supporters I know, there wasn't really bad blood between them and McCain. I guess people really believed Obama might be "the one" instead of "that one."
And this becomes the probable consequence of an Obama presidency: complacency.
So many people put so much effort into getting him elected, that it might have clouded what they wanted out of a Barack Hussein Obama White House. There has been much celebrating of Obama's being the nation's first black president, but was it so much getting him elected or getting a black person elected that will make this a landmark election?
There will be lots of talk about Democrats achieving a House majority and enlarging their existing Senate majority, but now what? The country has tons of problems that still need to be addressed, and a Democrat-ruled Washington shouldn't seriously be counted on alleviating any legislation backlog, now that a few Republicans are no longer at the party.
I guess what I'm really trying to get across is the near certainty that this election was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see true democracy at its best and worst. The amount of civic pride many people showed in getting eligible voters excited about participating can't be overstated.
True, there were many bumps and bruises, but through the conflict and confrontation, I think there were scores of healthy discussions about the way the country is and the way the country should be. People didn't feel excluded; they felt a part of it. People also got sick of it, which makes some very eager to move on.
There definitely will be a post-election hangover and Obama being sworn in as President come January will reignite his supporters and hopefully even some Republicans as well, but I fear first-time voters popped their cherry with no true likelihood of chronic balloting. I also fear those new legislators will find their constituents having already accepted that change has come and will continue regardless of their further involvement.
Complacency will destroy change and its message. November 4, 2008 shouldn't just be a date that signaled to the country that change has come, nor should it be a date that gave Obama a free pass to change as he saw fit.
Americans should constantly and continually challenge the political establishment they have just shaken up. Obama is merely at the top of it now.Powered by Sidelines