Thursday, November 6, 2008

What it means

One question I've been getting from reporters, students, and some family and friends is what does this election mean? I can't help thinking that, as a political scientist (or at least as the kind of political scientist that I am), I'm ill-equipped to answer this question. I can tell you that it showed the importance of political fundamentals like war and the economy relative to the choices made by the campaigns. I can tell you that it marked a Democratic surge but not a realignment. I can tell you that the Bradley effect amounted to bubkes.

But what does it mean? The interviews I've seen of African Americans in Chicago, New York, DC, and Atlanta with tears streaming down their faces proclaiming that November 4th was the greatest day in our nation's history tell you far more than I could. Yes, Obama's policy choices and strategic decisions mattered during the campaign, but in many ways, Obama's decision to run for president was like JFK's decision to commit America to going to the Moon. Both promised to benefit our nation in many ways, but it was no small thing to just see if we could do it. Race was considered a secondary issue during the campaign, but how could it not be central to the way we think about Obama's victory? How many days in the past 500 years have African Americans had cause to cheer and cry and embrace openly in the streets like they did on Tuesday?

Obama's presidency will surely receive thorough analysis by the likes of me. But this is a guy who has changed the country, and a fair chunk of the world, just by being elected. I'm out of my depth here.

2 comments:

Eric Rubin said...

I beg to differ that you are out of your depth. I find that talking about race makes non-racist white people feel uncomfortable because we don't want to be insensitive or hurt peoples' feelings or speak on something that we think we don't have any experience with. But I am jewish and I know discrimination firsthand. And, to be honest, i never thought the united states could elect a jewish president until barack's breakhrough. What does the election mean? It means that all men/women are created equal. They truly are. And america is now smart enough to realize that judging someone by the color of their skin or their religious background is just plain stupid.

If Oscar becomes president, Eli can be his attorney general. and sadie will be the vp. We'll just try and keep Reggie out of the media spotlight :)

cc . said...

well said...regardless of how many of our fantasies he doesn't realize in office, his being elected was huge.

(and that's a funny one below, "jeez maureen, get a job.")

ha!