The world is celebrating this morning. In Kenya, there's dancing in the street and a national holiday. In Japan, the toast of the day is "President Obama, Banzai!" (I say we take that one). But it's Chicago that's the temporary center of the universe and they were cheering last night as Barack Obama and Joe Biden lost the title "Senator" and became "President-Elect" and "Vice President-Elect."
The fight didn't last very long -- when Ohio went Obama, it was over. He had more than 200 electoral votes in his pocket at that point and a solid 77 west coast votes in the bank. When Virginia went blue, the extremely improbable became the all-but impossible. AP gave Obama Florida, McCain conceded, and it was over.
In his victory speech, President-Elect Obama praised his supporters, his detractors, his opponent, his staff, his family, his running mate, and democracy.
If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible; who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time; who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer...
It’s the answer that led those who have been told for so long by so many to be cynical, and fearful, and doubtful of what we can achieve to put their hands on the arc of history and bend it once more toward the hope of a better day.
"There will be setbacks and false starts," he said. "There are many who won’t agree with every decision or policy I make as President, and we know that government can’t solve every problem. But I will always be honest with you about the challenges we face. I will listen to you, especially when we disagree. And above all, I will ask you join in the work of remaking this nation the only way it’s been done in America for two-hundred and twenty-one years – block by block, brick by brick, calloused hand by calloused hand."
I'm tempted to go looking through the right wing blogosphere for sour grapes, but we've got four years -- at least -- to talk about that. Those "many who won’t agree" have already decided they hate Obama. Convinced he'll raise everyone's taxes, give all that money to Africa and terrorists, institute communism, and destroy America, they're beyond reason. The right used to talk about "Bush derangement syndrome" -- wait until you get an eyeful of anti-Obama delusion. All those people who believe he really is a terrorist, a Marxist, and the anti-Christ weren't shocked back to sanity last night. They won't be any time soon, either. They're completely insane and happy with that.
When all is said and done, we did this. You and me and everyone else who stood in line, who made phone calls, who kept up the fight. The voters who had a hard time and the voters, like me, who got in and out no problem.
And all those nuts, they did it too. With every cry of "KILL HIM!" and every dumbass who insisted a black man couldn't be allowed in the White House, another ten, twenty, one hundred votes went to Obama. Hate and paranoia aren't an attractive platform. Division, racism, and lies aren't the most appealing vision of the future. In their panic to avoid an Obama presidency, they practically guaranteed it. The thrashing of the drowning man exhausted him and he went under. The nuts on the other side did a lot to elect Obama, but we don't have to thank them for it. We only need to acknowledge it.
This isn't done. Not by a long shot. None of those people are going away and they'll fight the new president every step of the way, neutered as they are. When the battle's won, the winners tend to go home, but the losers are still ready to fight. Don't go home. In democracy, there is no decisive victory and, if that seems like bad news to you right now, remember the last eight years. That was the good news then. Nothing is irreversible in America. If you can't lose hope when things seem hopeless, then neither can you quit while you're ahead. This whole nation is a work in progress, never finished, never unchangeable, and never safely in the right hands. Victory is temporary, just as defeat is fleeting.
But right now, take five. Take a moment to remember what you did and where you are. "Yes we can" becomes "Yes we did." It's not over, but take a breather and pretend it is. You've earned it. Pour a glass of your favorite drink and make the toast of the 21st century.
President Obama, Bonzai!