Tuesday, November 04, 2008
Barack Obama elected President of the United States of America
One could be forgiven if they feel that the world has ground to a halt this evening.
The citizens of the United States of America have delivered their decision: Barack Obama will be the 44th President of the United States.
There will be no protracted wrangling over the electoral college. No supreme court. For the first time in nearly a decade, the United States can boast an honest-to-god democratically elected President -- elected fair and square.
The election was the only poll that mattered, and Obama won.
Few need any kind of reminder of the heavy burden of history Obama will carry throughout his Presidency. For the first time in its 231 years of existence, the United States has elected an African American as its President.
Only in a country that has well and truly turned a historical page in its traditionally contentious race relations could a man like Barack Hussein Obama be elected President. All Americans should be as proud as defeated Republican nominee John McCain that such a thing is possible.
Today, in the same year that Canada set a historic low in voter turnout, the United States posted its best voter turnout since 1908.
This election was not merely historical in the sense of the man elected. It's also historical for participation. After the humiliating nadir of the 2000 and 2004 elections, many can toast the United States as having recovered its democratic self-respect.
But Obama's mandate isn't as towering as the electoral college would seem to suggest. Although the number of electoral votes granted to Obama very much justifies the labeling of his victory as a landslide, his slim lead in the popular vote should continually serve as a reminder that if the electoral college distributed its votes the same way that his party does throughout its primary elections, this election victory would have been much more difficult to claim.
Many should hope that John McCain -- unlike Al Gore and John Kerry -- will make good on his promise to help Obama build bridges between the electoral coalition that has helped him win the Presidency and the rest of his country.
Obama's victory has been well-earned, and is well-deserved. But the real work for Obama now lays ahead of him, and he'll need the American people beside him in order to prevail in his labours.
To say that the United States has chosen its new Commander in Chief wisely would mischaracterize this election. Americans had two excellent choices for President before them -- perhaps the most difficult choice they have faced in the last 20 years.
But in the end, Obama -- the historical candidate -- has won his historical victory.
In a no-lose situation, it's unsurprising that all Americans have emerged as the real winners tonight.