Wednesday, November 5, 2008


Well, he did it! We did it. They did, Obama's extraordinary campaign staff and millions of those who, like my daughter, were inspired to work their hearts out to assure that stunning victory last night. Our neighborhood down here in Laguna Beach, in the heart of conservative Orange County, California, exploded at eight o'clock when the election was called by the chattering media. The sight of the Obama family on stage at the time of the acceptance speech was stirring beyond words. Most moving, perhaps, was the face of Jesse Jackson, tears streaming down, recalling all those years it took to make this happen.

The media commentary this morning--as did the gracious Bush speech outside the White House--made story of Obama's victory to be about race, extolling the fact that a black American could win the presidency and the proof it offered that America is the place of unlimited opportunity. While this is true, I think the historical shift if greater and more important than this interpretation allows. The paradigm shift has more to do with the evidence it offers of a deep cultural tectonic event; it's a repudiation of that mean side of the American character that has been manifest these past thirty years and more, the smallness that has promoted the whole me-first mentality that was reflected first, in my opinion, in the so-called tax revolt of the 1970s. It's a repudiation of Ronald Reagan as much as George W. Bush, of the trickle-down theory of economics that made a travesty of the American notion of fairness and opportunity. It's a repudiation of the politics of division that has pitted Republican against Democrat, right against left, liberal against conservative. It's Barack Obama's appeal that he has insisted throughout on transcending these divisions.

The much-touted change is only partly about these things. But the relief that was tangible in the air last night was not just an American relief. You could almost feel the entire world taking a new breath. Obama's election is also about the realization that America must now take its place again in the community of nations, and that the world at large has much at stake in America's change of heart. I have heard it said that voting for the American President should not be restricted to Americans, since the choice affects the lives of people everywhere. There's truth to that. The world has become so small, so "flat"--to use NYTimes columnist Tom Friedman's term, that we can no longer hope to survive as a species if we cling to our old notion of a collection of competitive nation states. As a man whose very humanity is a complex blend of national and racial identity, Obama has the look of a person who transcends the old categories we must now discard.

I am convinced that the new President will make good on his promise to reach across the ideological divides. I hope that he will find a source of support in the new "old McCain" who made a reappearance last night in his gracious concession speech--a man of generosity and courage and dedication. I fully expect to see and hear more from him. I trust that the same is NOT true of the biggest mistake he made in the course of his campaign, the mistake that undermined the trust he had worked so hard to build in the American electorate. I refer, of course, to the Governor of Alaska, whose hysterical and pusillanimous campaign rhetoric did so much to discredit the ideology for which she stood.

Needless to say, we in this household are overjoyed to enjoy the prospect of a President Obama, and are prepared to do what we many need to do and make the sacrifices we may be called on to make in order to out this country back on track to fulfill its promise to itself and to the world.


Catherine said...

Wonderful post! Very inspiring!

Up here in Canada, people are every bit as excited and happy; we felt this election was somehow part of us, too, and the hope and promise President-Elect Obama represents is something that does cross every barrier -regional, national, ethnic, religious, partisan.

thailandchani said...

The world does feel a little bit safer. I liked your overall assessment of this.

It is time for the meanness of the American character to be tamed.. and Obama can have a definite influence on that.


mandt said...

The 'old McCain': "a man of generosity and courage and dedication."---a dangerous delusion! McCain's a corrupt, opportunist, whose followers will stop at nothing to impede Obama and the restoration of legitimate democracy. Do you really think a man of generosity and courage looks the other way when riled crowds scream out 'kill him?'That sentiment was still evident among the affluent handpicked crowd at the Baltimore when the 'old McCain gave his concession speech.

PeterAtLarge said...

Catherine, thanks. Good to find your own good blog!

Chani, yes, I hope that's true.

MandT, okay, I get that. But I also think that the right wing of his party had grabbed him by the balls. His fault, of course, for allowing himself to be so grabbed. But I continue to believe that there's a better man inside than the one we saw in the course of this election.

robin andrea said...

You say all the things that I have been feeling. It woke this morning feeling for the first time that perhaps we can sigh a bit of relief and feel safe. Truly we have in Barack Obama a President who is of the people, and that will make all the difference in the world. We are elated with a joy that has no bounds at the moment. In the days, weeks, and months ahead we will watch him take on the most difficult tasks. We anticipate delight and disappointment, but will always be grateful that it is he who will be there to navigate this troubled ship of state.

Anonymous said...

We are overjoyed at my household, too.

I'm less convinced that McCain is a decent man given how he has conducted himself, however. Yes, the concession was gracious - I'll grant him that. But Lord, what a disturbing show he has put on.

Mark said...

I'm sad that everyone's efforts here in MO didn't make itself evident in electoral votes, but I'm still overjoyed that Obama did it without us! People in the Midwest like to drag their feet. Everything seemed to have been better "back in the day." I, for one, am more excited for tomorrow than for yesterday!

Maybe I was really tired after waking up at 5 and campaigning all day, or maybe it was the slightly intoxicated watch party I was at, but I have to admit that I teared up when Obama was giving his acceptance speech. It was beautiful, reminding me once more that he's the change we need. Gobama!

Lillian Abel said...

I've been looking forward to your blog since last night. It was a happy state of indescribable, extraordinary emotion and wonder when the Obama Victory news broke, in short, a deliverance! We've been touched...changed in ways we can never measure. This touch is beyond our comprehension, beyond our knowledge of how deep this hand has reached.

roger said...

i'm not holding my breath waiting for a decent mccain to emerge, and i don't want the "first black president" thing, as wonderful as it is, as proud of us as i am, to overshadow the reality that the better candidate won, that the only really good candidate won. this wasn't a tough choice between two qualifed people. one of them is a bitter, ethically deficient, morally compromised (how about that torture thing john?) crude jerk.

the relief that everyone feels would not be felt had mccain won. he made his choice to win at any cost.

Gary said...

I left Hong Kong for the USA on the eve of the Obama
win. My friends there are equally pleased to see reason
and intellect reappear in our government. My friend Albert Tsang was born in mainland China, educated in HK and then at Milton in the USA and McGill in Canada
before returning to HK to grow his fathers business. He never uttered W's name in 8 years. 8 is a lucky number in China and I will make every sacrifice needed with my family to make the next 8 years be a time of reason and progress. B.ROCK live long!