-There are those who think the election of Barack Obama is the most wonderful thing to happen in the history of this nation. And of course, as with most things political and racial, there are those who think the opposite. But there can be no arguing however, that in simply historic terms, election day 2008 has provided a truly amazing occurence. This writer found himself shedding a tear while watching President-elect Obama's victory speech because of the sheer magnitude of the moment. Striking too, as one who lived through all of the racial animosity of the 60's, was to hear a black man extoll the virtues of this country and speak so eloquently about his love for it. To all of us, but in particular our minority citizenry, 11/4/08 will always be a very special day. There has never before been a man of proven and admitted African bloodlines as President-elect of the United States. There can be no doubt about it being a landmark in our country's timeline.
Some questions and thoughts:
-Who can claim credit? That an African-American was elected to the presidency forty-some years after the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is remarkable in itself. Just who got this ball rolling? Clearly, you have to trace it back to the courageous and noble people who, in service to the nation, saw no reason why one man should have inherent superiority, or indeed ownership, over another...said so, and acted upon those convictions. Just as obviously, the leaders of the civil rights movement of the sixties and beyond receive credit for calling attention to the plight of minorities in a media environment that was ready for the story. But, I also believe you can legitimately point to the sizeable segment of the population who heard the "N word" on a regular basis and had the courage to say.. "Not around me". The people who took minority friends in the face of outside pressure to not do so. I'm talking about the every-day man and woman who simply did the right thing when previous generations had not. These are people who now need to be released from the too easily-uttered label of racist... simply because of their whiteness. Because these were likely the first Americans to raise families in which respect and tolerance was the norm, not the exception. With young people playing such a large role in this election, it's obvious that the children and grandchildren of these people were instrumental in electing Senator Obama to the world's most important job. It's been a process. One that likely, as Mr. Obama said, could only happen in a country with a Constitutional framework such as ours.
-Will Obama's victory end the discussion about whether racism in this country prevents minority accomplishment..or exacerbate it? Many will likely say that Obama was successful in the face of the racist population's best efforts to defeat him. Others may say that he was accorded a "free pass" because of his partially-Caucasian background. Some will have the good sense to look beyond all that to the non-racial factors and say "Yes we can". But, the discussion of race relations, and all that goes with it, will likely be more prominent in our consciousness for a good long while.
-Will the election process now be reviewed? Many stood for hours in line to cast their ballot on Tuesday. This doesn't take rocket scientists to fix...does it? Can't we finally begin a national discussion...officially in congressional hearings...to amend the Constitution to bring the election process into the 21st century. Why not allow voting to take place for an entire weekend? Vote on days when most of the population wouldn't need to take off work, or miss some other obligation. Does the electoral college process still have merit? Can we use home computers in some way to vote? Should there be rules governing the media and how it reports election results? All of these questions, and more, should be addressed now that this election has brought a sizeable new population into the process.
-Will this election be viewed as the turning point in history that many believe it to be? President-elect Obama has already said that he didn't lose sleep over losing the election...he lost sleep over what happens if he won. The true test of the man is yet to come. Can he and his team accomplish what his speeches promised? Can he bring true bi-partisanship, and the drive to change, to Washington as he suggests? What can really be done by a President to fix the economy, foreign relations, our war efforts, the environment and many other overwhelming challenges? Does the Obama plan for the country and it's problems hold water? Starting in January, we'll all begin to find out if the election was historic from more than a race-relations standpoint. For the sake of all of us, I hope so.
-What will McCain's future hold? I thought Senator McCain's concession speech was the shining moment of his entire campaign. He seemed to be coached out of his true personality throughout most of it. In conceding his loss, he appeared to revert to the warm-hearted and sensitive American hero that we knew him to be. His words were spot-on and his approach was mindful of the love he has always professed for the United States. Does he now become a cabinet member in the Obama administration? Does he retire? Does he return to run for office again in a few years? Whatever the answer, he did himself, and our newly elected leader, proud with his final act of campaign '08.