It's only 9:55 pm Pacific Time, but we just popped the cork. Obama won. And, best of all, McCain conceded in a gracious, nonpartisan fashion I found truly touching (despite some of the booing from the utter creeps he has attracted over the last few months).
When this campaign was in the late primary stages, I couldn't have been more pleased. Although I was committed to Obama early on, when I looked at the line-up of realistic possibilities and found Obama, Clinton, and McCain, I said, hey--any of these would be an improvement! In the case of McCain, I didn't always agree with him, but I thought he was forthright and willing to stand up to political claptrap. In other words, I thought he was that rarity in the USA (and perhaps in the world), a principled politician.
Alas, when he named Sarah Palin as his running mate in an effort to cater to the worst elements of his party, I think he sold out. And I think the New York Times, in their editorial just after Mr Obama won, sums it up quite nicely:
Showing extraordinary focus and quiet certainty, Mr. Obama defeated first Hillary Clinton, who wanted to be president so badly that she lost her bearings, and then John McCain, who forsook his principles for a campaign built on anger and fear.
McCain's concession speech went a long way towards redeeming him.
Now, everybody's making a big deal about the fact that Obama is an African-American. I'd never vote for or against someone because of their race, but I'll admit it's a nice bonus. What makes me happiest is his educational background. After the Bush years, it would be good to have a Constitutional scholar in office, and Con Law is Obama's specialty. Maybe he can patch the poor old document back together.
One of the things that drove me mad about Bush was the way he kept claiming, as he stripped away our civil liberties and set the NSA to spying on us all, "My first duty as President is to protect the lives of the American people." Well, you know, I checked. That isn't his first duty as President. Here's the Oath of Office in full:
I do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.
Not to protect lives. To protect the Constitution. Lives are valuable, but still expendable in certain causes, and many were spent to give us that document.
Obama has so much to do. And many of the things he needs to do would limit Presidential powers (especially so-called 'signing statments,' which Bush invoked in 1,100 instances to say that he as President felt free to ignore laws passed by Congress if they interfered with his executive rights). Now there's a real test of character: Is the first thing you do on assuming power is try to limit your own power?
I think Obama may be up to it. I hope so.
Well, enough of that. Time to watch all of our weird California ballot initiatives.