As I write this, CNN has formally declared Senator Barack Obama as the winner of the 2008 Presidential Election. Those watching the election returns today knew this was a virtual certainty several hours ago after the Democratic Senator won the battleground state of Pennsylvania.
There will be far smarter people with far better access to the nuances of tonight's outcome who will dissect the polling results and what it ultimately means in terms of of our country's political leanings. And, more importantly, like any President, Mr. Obama's ultimate place in history and his legacy won't be known until long after he's ended his time in office.
But, like many Americans, I've felt this election held profound importance. Regardless of whether you're a Democrat or a Republican or a Libertarian or a Green, tonight is a night of congratulations, reflection and, more importantly, hope.
It's been difficult in recent months to have an optimistic bent, particularly if you're in the investment industry. We've had a front row seat for the unwinding of a generational bubble of excess, entitlement and manufactured wealth. The government's role in this potentially devastating financial crisis has been hard to endure, and I've found myself more jaded than ever regarding the ability and effectiveness of our elected officials.
Which brings me back to HOPE. Without hope, an ability to believe in a better tomorrow, it's difficult to stay engaged in the process. Am I skeptical? YES. Am I worried? Absolutely. Do I feel certain that the President Elect is capable of changing the course of our nation's fate? No, I do not. BUT, I also genuinely feel that change - in and of itself - is a great thing this time around. And I hope that Obama and people he surrounds himself with do enough to restore my faith in the political machine.
Let me leave you with a few observations I'm taking away from today's events; things that any American should appreciate regardless of your political affiliation:
A generation looks past prior biases -- As a white male, I don't profess to fully comprehend the issues of racial or sexual bias. That said, there's no way one can ignore the fact that our nation just elected a 47-year old African American to the highest office. So much for the inanity of the Bradley Effect. Let's not pretend that bias doesn't still exist here and in many other countries, but let's also recognize that, finally, the American people were able to look at the merits of the candidate, and not what their skin color or religous orientation may be. That's wonderful. What's more exciting is that it's a generational thing.
My 5-year old son "voted" today in his Kindergarten class. When his teacher explained to them that tonight's election had the potential to be historic, he had no idea what she meant. When he came home and asked, and I explained it was because Senator Obama would be the first Black President...he looked at me quizzically and asked, "what do you mean, why does it matter what his skin color is?" If anyone out there thinks biases aren't taught, think again.
The world looks on excitedly -- Watching CNN tonight, and at the same time chatting with friends from all across the world on Twitter, I was struck at just how excited and invested the rest of the world was in tonight's election. Given our country's recent troubles, it's been too easy to forget just how influential and important our country is to just about everyone in the developed world. To see so many non-Americans passionate about what this election might mean was encouraging. Our country's image has been tarnished for a long time, and we at least have the CHANCE to re-establish ourselves with a new leader at the helm.
A campaign that was shaped, in no small part, by the power of social media and the internet -- I'm an advocate of technology, a believer in social media, and an ardent fan of energizing individuals. Senator Obama's campaign, and the media's coverage of the election process, has been a triumph of the technological age. Obama's ability to leverage the grass roots nature of web campaigns, blogs, SMS, Twitter, and other outlets helped him build a massive war chest of campaign contributions. It also energized the oft-discussed, but rarely impactful youth vote. For once, 20-somethings engaged in, and helped push the process. Exit polls indicate Obama garnered 65% of "new" registered voters and 68% of the youth vote; impressive.
We aren't going to have a super majority -- I'm fine with change. But I didn't want to see one party have a super majority in the House & Senate while also occupying the Oval Office. I would've been equally opposed to the idea of a Republican super majority. Simply put, I don't want one party to be able to facilitate partisan change without recourse. While the Democrats certainly have a broader mandate than they've had in decades, at least the Republicans held enough seats that some moderation of legislation will occur.
The hard work is just getting started, and based on my personal demographics I may personally be challenged by many of Senator Obama's intended changes. That said, there is plenty of time for skepticism and criticism. But for tonight, I'm going to go to bed grateful of the clear and inescapable positives of tonight's election.