Sorry about the light blogging. Had a paper to put out in all this. Here’s what ran on our editorial page:
The Tide Is In
Your vote counted. There’s proof. And not just your vote, but the actions you took to get registered, to be informed and whatever it took to put yourself in front of a ballot. The actions of your neighbors counted, the ones who convinced you and the ones who challenged your conclusions. The ones who took time last year, last month and two days ago to get someone else engaged in the process.
To be enfranchised takes effort. It means not being discouraged or daunted by the seeming impossibility of the task ahead but knowing that without the participation of individuals there is no nation — that unless the people speak, this country has no voice.
We are not unified. This was a bitter campaign and while many of us would hope that politics has been somehow cleansed, no doubt there will be equally ugly moments ahead. One can take some comfort in the failure of many of the nastier charges to take hold. There was too much on the line for too many to be enticed by the divisiveness that has worked so well in the past.
What’s different in politics is a leap not just in numbers but in commitment. There were many new voters and a huge number of people volunteering and politicking for the first time. In particular, younger voters plugged in to this democracy in a way they haven’t in decades and, for most of them, their candidate won and won big. With the awakening of a huge number of new voters, elections in this community are likely to change as well.
There was talk of a wave of new voters. It’s not a wave — it’s a tide. They’re different things. A wave washes up, throws the swash around and recedes. Tides are much longer cycles, their effect more profound on the shoreline even though not as easily visible as the effect of the breakers.
This election brought millions more to the polls, millions who are likely to keep voting. People were also connected in ways that were only imagined in the last cycle — organizing, contributing, coordinating and communicating via digital means with the ultimate goal — and as the election proved, with the result — of making something happen on the ground. This was not the first election to make use of the cell phone and the Internet, but there are dozens of underdog candidates across the country who will take their seats in Congress and various state houses because they and their supporters successfully tapped into the resources of the local, state and national netroots. And there are dozens of candidates and incumbents who were unsuccessful because they discounted the web’s immediacy and efficacy in putting one’s words and images into the public domain.
We are a different country than we were 48 hours ago. There is no denying the historic nature of the phrase “President-elect Barack Obama.” Long after we are all through putting our spin on this, long after those of us who actually did live long enough to see this country’s first black president are dust, schoolchildren will look down the line of presidents of the United States and see very clearly that a bright line was crossed on this week in November 2008.
Late Tuesday night, standing before an enormous throng with the eyes of the world on him, the president-elect was more sober in victory than one might have guessed. Perhaps it was because he too was awestruck with the historic nature of the moment and because he understands that this is not an end, but a beginning. The country is still at war and in the throes of an economic crisis. A new era has dawned, but the promise of a better future is still just that. The difference is that millions in this country and billions around the world sense that it is a little more possible that a brighter day will come.
Let’s get to work.