I am completely overwhelmed and still reeling in disbelief. Yes, we can, America. Time after time in my lifetime we have had opportunities squandered and greatness shelved in favor of greed and power. Civil rights icon John Lewis said the election was a ‘non-violent revolution.’ Amen. I cannot be more proud of my country than I am this morning. The election of Barack Obama brings a close to a long and difficult chapter in America’s history, but even larger than that it is a seismic shift in the political and cultural landscape.
We did truly witness a “new kind of politics.” Obama ran a 50 state strategy combining grass roots organizing with the power of the Internet raising an unprecedented amount of money from small donors passionate about his campaign. The strategy paid off, even in states he lost. He brought millions of new voters to the polls and enlarged the demographic. There was no one single group that put him over the top. He energized young voters as much as African-Americans. The Latino community put him over the top in critical western battleground states. Many Republicans like me gave him our support and will become Independents and Democrats. Even older voters, especially in Florida, concerned over the economy threw their support behind a Democrat. Women, who made history supporting Hillary Clinton, broke overwhelmingly to support Obama rather than Sarah Palin. Even though Obama did not win all of those historically red states, it forced McCain to play defense on home turf spending precious time and resources he didn’t have to waste.
David Axlerod, chief Obama campaign strategist, is the new ‘architect.’ He blew Karl Rove’s tactics, surrogates, and legacy out of the water. McCain ran a general election campaign based largely on fear and bet his presidency on the ability to scare voters about Obama. The Obama campaign laid out a clear vision of where he wanted to take the country and refused to get in the mud many times when given the opportunity, leaving most of that work to ads and surrogates and leaving him with cleaner hands than his opponent.
Truthfully, most all pundits agree that had the Republican nominee been anyone other than John McCain the election would have never even seemed close during the campaign. The Bush legacy and damaged Republican brand were enough of a hurdle to overcome without an economic meltdown. There’s just so much anyone can do to, and it didn’t help that McCain’s campaign and its players ran a terrible campaign, plagued with infighting, missteps, and instability. We haven’t seen the last of Sarah Palin. She’ll be back, but unfortunately for her, she appeals to the conservative base of the Republican party which is even smaller than it was before. Bush ran to the center, as a “uniter not a divider,” as did Obama. Palin specializes in carving up America into little pieces of “real” and “patriotic” versus the rest of us. That will not be forgotten. Once America has had four years of dreaming bigger and reaching higher that kind of partisanship will be too sour a pill to stomach.
I am even more excited to see President-Elect Obama begin to assemble his team and lay out plans for the transition. There is much work to be done. His supporters, a vast viral grass roots network, are empowered and energized, ready to work. Gov. Bobby Jindal amassed a similar grass roots Internet network of supporters in Louisiana that he kept in constant contact with between his failed bid and victory. He still communicates with them regularly and utilizes town hall meetings and strategic press ops to motivate them to make their voices heard on critical issues. I suspect this Obama network will remain alive and well as President Obama’s most powerful tool to drive his agenda through difficult obstacles to come.
President-Elect Obama’s acceptance speech in Grant Park was beyond moving and inspirational. It brought many of us to tears. He acknowledged the work will not be easy or quick. It will take all of us working together to fix the mess we’re in. He said that the election night victory was not the change we’ve been seeking. It was only the opportunity to make that change happen. I’m ready, America. Let’s get to work. Yes, we can!