06 November 2008

Significance of Obama's Election

The news media has been focused for the past 36 hours on how Barack Obama is now the first elected African American president-elect. There have been lots of quotes from African Americans who exclaim how they never expected to see this in their lifetimes. I am pleased to witness this momentous occasion. However, I think the news media is missing the mark slightly.

For at least a week before the election, it was quite clear based on all reputable polls that Obama was significantly ahead. The news media was forced to portray the McCain campaign as still competitive for sake of keeping up ratings, along with covering the last ditch effort by the GOP.

I think the real story to be paid attention to is the massive voter turnout seen clearly through all the early voting footage, with long lines of people, especially minorities waiting, to cast their vote. On the day of the election, the precincts were mostly prepared for massive turnout, which came to fruition. In cities and the countryside, in every state, voter turnout was unprecedented, at least since the 1960s. 85% turnout in some places like California. Many first time voters, some of whom were elderly and simply never felt they had a say until this election.

But I silently questioned, why do we have to go only back to the 1960s to see historic voter turnout. Much has been said about how Obama's campaign was largely the electorate's deep rooted reaction of disapproval of the Bush administration. That is clear and indisputable. Some was also said about how the end of a conservative era, begun with the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980 with the inclusion of disaffected Reagan Democrats back then, has come full circle. What helped beat the communists to end the Cold War was not exactly what was needed to deal with the 21st century world.

What I find most interesting is how the Obama campaign not only tapped into the anti-war sentiment early on, but also rode a wave of fatigue with the slash and burn style of politics that we've seen especially the past 14 years. Obama proclaims that it is time that we all rise above the cynicism that we harbor towards government and politicians. But where did that cynicism come from? Was it merely from Bush's Doctrine? Clinton's "depends what is is"? Reagan's ketchup is a vegetable?

Or, perhaps, it all began with Nixon's Watergate scandal. Literally millions of Americans lost the trust and faith in the American government in the early 1970s. A trust that has been on a rollercoaster for nearly 4 decades.

I say, the era of cynicism that began from Watergate is now coming to an end. This is a new era. We have begun a period of hope, of optimism, of readiness to be of service to community and country, of sacrifice in energy consumption and taxes. Obama has challenged us to take a 100 year view, to set things right so that those who follow us enjoy a world that is back on track, with repairs to the environment, the financial system, the cultural diversity, and finally a healthy stewardship that all the world supports. Perhaps too pie in the sky, but is it too much to ask to build a world where our future children and grandchildren are born and grow up in a place that has hope and prosperity, a society that truly fosters life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness?

Yes we can.