Judging by the blogs I read and the company I was in last night, the historical significance and emotional force of Obama’s victory was universally felt. It was certainly a remarkable evening. After almost a decade in which the American president was selected by slim margins in single swing states, it was impressive to see the election called before Florida had even been decided. Obama clearly has a strong mandate, and we should all be hoping that he proves as effective and capable in government as he has been on the campaign trail. Obviously, there are a lot of immediate problems that need to be sorted out, at the same time as we need to be laying the critical groundwork for the transition to a sustainable global economy.
Somewhat surprisingly, I think the best speech of the night was actually McCain’s concession. It was the best speech I have ever seen him give. One might cynically observe that it was only after losing that he felt he could step back from some of his campaign’s more baseless attacks against Obama. More optimistically, perhaps the graciousness of the gesture will be mirrored in at least a temporary willingness on the part of Congressional Republicans to support the new administration in dealing with the trickiest and more immediate difficulties facing the country.
It’s a shame the open-mindedness demonstrated in the presidential election didn’t extend to some of the ballot initiative races that took place. I remain confident that, in fifty years, we will view bans on gay marriage as just as reprehensible and absurd as we would view a ban on interracial marriage today. The pathetic bigotry that drives voters to amend their state constitutions to strip basic rights from their fellow citizens is a demonstration that the slow process of building a tolerant and empathetic society, even within a single state, has a long way to go.