Tuesday’s election was a momentous occasion in the history of the United States. Of course, the Dow Jones Industrial Average didn’t drop 900 points, Florida’s vote didn’t need to be recounted and New York wasn’t under attack; all of these moments were historic, but they were historic for the wrong reasons. Tuesday was the sort of history you teach first graders - the warm and fuzzy kind.
As Americans, we should all take from that day a feeling of optimism and hope, not necessarily from President-elect Barack Obama’s policies but from what he came to represent to the American people. Obama’s election was bigger than he is and is more important than he can ever hope to be as president. Regardless of how the next four years go, Nov. 4, 2008, should be a day we remember fondly.
An election where such a broad cross-section of the American people become involved - young and old, black and white - can only have positive connotations. It is important to not yet let pessimism taint your excitement over Obama’s election. People will make mistakes and play politics. but let that wait until Inauguration Day.
The election of the United States’ first black president is the realization of what we have all wanted this nation to be. The injustices of the past and the difficulties we still face will not be wiped away because of this election, but we must now look at them through a different filter.
We see now that this country, imperfect though it may be, is capable of betterment and improvement through our democratic ideals. We should be proud that 236 years after our Founding Fathers declared our independence, we have realized one of the ideals then set down on parchment. In a nation of more than 300 million people, we must be united in our drive for self-improvement.
We should all acknowledge that Obama will never be able to fully live up to the standards he has set for himself. He is also not America’s bandage. On Inauguration Day, the stock market will still be volatile, credit will still be tight, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will still be going on and college will still be expensive. All we can hope is that Obama and the American people will continue to work to better this country.
To do this, Obama and the Democratic Party need to avoid the mistakes the Republican Party made during the last eight years. Forty-six percent of American voters still voted for Republican presidential nominee John McCain - a testament to McCain’s personal appeal - but also a reminder that there are still Republicans and they are still important.
It was truly a shame yesterday when the large Democratic turnout for Obama also claimed the jobs of some very good, moderate Republicans in Congress. At a time when American politics needs to de-polarize, the Democratic Party has the power to yank it far to the left. If they give into the temptation to ignore 46 percent of the American people, they will accomplish little.