November 05, 2008

A New Era in American Politics

After the American Century

Jessie Jackson envisioned the kind of victory that Barack Obama won yesterday, as a rainbow coalition of Americans turned out to give the Democrats a historic victory. The ecstatic celebration in Chicago included people from all walks of life and every race, all cheering together for the first African American president.

The eight year nightmare of the George Bush presidency is almost over, though the Democrats will inherit the economic and international problems he created. This is not the time to dwell on the difficulties that lie ahead, but rather a moment for celebration and renewal. It is the best day for the United States since the disputed election in 2000.

The moment tempts one to become Shakespearean. The bard once wrote that there comes a time in the affairs of mankind which, taken at flood tide, leads on to victory. Obama was fortunate to catch a powerful historical wave that carried him toward his success. His campaign was also superbly organized, which is why he rode that wave more successfully than any other Democratic candidate during the past year.

The whole sequence of events, from the Iowa Caucuses and the long primary season until the election has been stunning and emotionally exhausting. There has been more drama and interest throughout than in any campaign I can remember since 1968, and the result is far more decisive and positive than it was then. Such a victory was unimaginable a year ago. For once it really seems that anything is possible, that nations can change, that injustices can be overcome.

Perhaps all this is a fleeting impression before going to sleep. But the mark of a great leader is the ability to nurture hope.