A country with a terrible history of racism and racist violence has elected a black president. Looking at the ecstatic crowd in Grant Park, Chicago, the moment Obama was declared the winner, one sees with vivid force that many Americans haven’t had much of a chance to feel proud of their country for a long time. Young Americans, particularly blacks and Hispanics, yearned for all the affirmations that the Obama campaign has represented, and their joy was manifest and moving in Grant Park, Times Square and other venues across the country.
Equally striking was the rapidity with which one saw a new zeitgeist flaring into life on all the networks–America is a country eager to stand tall once more in the eyes of other nations. Not the nation of stolen elections, of Guantánamo, of renditions, but the nation electing a black man to the White House. The commentators fell over themselves to repeat the message that America is showing a new face to the world.
What sort of face? I was struck by the first reaction to Obama’s victory speech by Rachel Maddow, MSNBC’s rapidly rising left-liberal star, who seized on this line: “A new dawn of American leadership is at hand. To those who would tear this world down: we will defeat you.”
“I was delighted,” Maddow exclaimed, “to hear him say in such blunt terms, ‘We will defeat you.'” She went on to snarl against “nihilists,” “nuts” and “crazies” seeking “world domination” with all the fervor of a right-wing radio shock jock or, for that matter, Bush or Cheney. Maddow is a Rhodes scholar, after all, so laptop bombardment is programmed in more or less automatically.
Maddow’s reflex comment was a salutary reminder that it was only a decade ago that liberalism’s laptop bombardiers were hustling Clinton into ordering the bombing of civilian targets in the former Yugoslavia.
Domestically, Alaskans gallantly reaffirmed America’s traditional gratitude for the man who brings home the bacon by apparently re-electing Senator Ted Stevens, temporarily inconvenienced by his felony conviction. The wisdom, as yet untested, is that Election 2008 is registering as big a sea change in American politics as did 1932 for the Democrats with FDR and 1964 for them with LBJ. Patrick Buchanan, who helped invent conservative politics in the age of Nixon, said mournfully that the Conservative Revolution is over, and George Bush has been the gravedigger.
In the House the Democrats will have a very big majority, 254 to 173, once again of huge importance in diminishing the Republicans’ capacity to fight rearguard battles or sidetrack legislation.
Not surprisingly, the commentators were eager to stress the bipartisan nature of Obama’s victory. “His ability to govern,” David Gergen said, “will be in his ability to withstand a stampede [by Congress] to the left.” Another CNN panelist invoked the mandate given to “the center-right coalition.” Obama, should he espouse any genuine effort toward positive change, will be reminded of this supposed mandate many times in the press, as will Nancy Pelosi and her Communist accomplices in the House.