I watched the election results from a small movie theater on the north side of Columbus. It's interesting that on the day I celebrated my the 20th anniversary of my first election this country was witness to history in the making. Barack Obama won by a wide margin. He secured a lot of votes in states where Democrats don't tend to fare well and where black men don't usually get the benefit of he doubt. Even if Obama had been white the victory would have been impressive. I had a feeling that Obama's support was stronger than most polls were anticipating and boldly told a coworker that I figured McCain would take the stage for his concession speech at 11:30. Obama won thanks in large part to serious economic problems. Historically people look to Democrats to stabilize the economy, which is baffling since Republicans claims to be the champions of commerce.
But Obama didn't win because people wanted a regime change. He didn't win because people believe he's better for the economy. Obama won because people believe in him. I've watched a number of presidential elections and I've studied many of the presidencies. Barack Obama is one of the most charismatic figures we've seen elected to the presidency. He's inspiring and commanding. He's got a tremendous presence. He exudes strength and compassion and rarely seems to pander. As the campaign went on I bought into him more and more. Not just his politics, but his personality.
I liked Bill Clinton and respect a lot of what he did as a president but I didn't feel strongly enough to vote for him over a third party candidate. Similarly I was unimpressed with Al Gore so I voted for Ralph Nader in order to make a point. In 2004 I was disgusted by John Kerry but I would have happily voted for a sea monkey over George W. Bush. I thought that was going to be the case in 2008 as well. That was before Barack Obama emerged as such an intriguing candidate. For the first time in my life I voted for somebody I really believed in and I was excited to watch the election unfold on a movie screen. Nearly 100 other people were in attendance and all of them erupted into cheers whenever a state went to Obama.
People have argued that Obama doesn't have a lot of substance. They say he talks a good game but that he doesn't seem to have much of a plan. I didn't vote for a plan, I voted for a leader and his vision. I know Obama doesn't have all the answers but I believe he has the intelligence, judgment and humility to find them. I trust that he will surround himself with the sort of people who will help him solve problems rather than sweep them under the rug and hope nobody sees them. After 8 years of watching, in horror, the Bush Administration squander every last penny our nation's diplomatic currency, I am suddenly confident that the US can once again become the best country in the world. Obama's election alone raised global perception of the US and that's going to come in handy over the next several years as the US extricates itself from ill-advised endeavors.
Michelle Obama took some flack for making a comment about her sense of pride in our nation. Well, I'm not afraid to say that I've often wondered what I was supposed to be proud of. I've always been disappointed in the disparity between rhetoric and deed. What this country says it stands for and what it actually has stood for have always seemed divergent. I won't say that Obama's election has restored my pride in this country but for the first time in my life I think that we have a chance to be a nation I can take pride in.