Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Hope for a better tomorrow

"An historic night" as Steven Colbert said repeatedly said last night. Barack Obama won the Presidency of the USA in something very close to a landslide, winning states that have not gone Democratic since the party realignment of the 1960's.

Although to me it felt less like history and more like the entire future realigning itself into something more hopeful.

The last time I felt that everything had suddenly changed was the dark day of September 11th, 2001.

Before that the more hopeful, if now tarnished, night of May 2nd, 1997, when the Labour Party swept to power in the UK after 18 years of Conservative mis-rule.

McCain's concession speech was remarkably gracious and non-partisan, especially considering the remarkably ungracious, bigoted and partisan campaign he ran. Unfortunately the small (and almost uniformly white) crowd of McCain supporters who heard him were less gracious, booing mentions of Obama's name.

Obama's victory speech was also impressive, and surprisingly cerebral. I caught some of the Lincoln riffs and the obvious MLK Jr references, but I'm sure I missed some clever stuff. And as usual, it presented a remarkably calm and considered point of view.

Of the two candidates there is no doubt that it is Obama who genuinely wishes to heal the partisan and ideological rifts than wound this country. The difference in the diversity and behavior of the pro-Obama crowd at Grant Park only served to emphasize the essential rightness of the Obama election.

I often doubt that any politician can truly be the transformative figure that many believe Obama to be - is he not just yet another centrist Democrat (obviously better for the US than any Republican, but still far from perfect)? But the more I see and hear him speak the more I begin to think that there is something really different about him from other centrist Democrats. That he does actually believe in change, that people can make a positive difference. I can't imagine Hilliary, or Kerry, or even Gore giving the speech Obama gave last night, or giving me reason to hope that the future will be a better place.

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