Saturday, November 08, 2008

Yes, I lived through a piece of history being made...

Yes, I lived through a piece of history being created. I lived at a time when America was led by a Black President. The campaign is over, the race is over, the verdict is out and the dust has settled. And only now, is the effect beginning to sink in, in the world. Barack Obama will be the 44th President of the United States of America, and he has won the race to the White House. And how! 349 to McCain's 169, while 270 is all that was needed. George W Bush won his two terms by 271 and 286 respectively! But why is all this such a big deal?

Well, America, as a nation has been a nation that has forever been a melting pot of cultures and nationalities. For that matter, the whole of the North American continent is that way, but the variegation is a lot more in the USA. Beginning from the times of mass migration of slaves from Europe to free land in the 'newly discovered land' to the never ceasing immigration of people from different countries, America has always been one to encourage 'results for hard work'. Hence the name, 'Land of Opportunities'. But all has never been hunky dory with this land. From Martin Luther King to Rodney King the history of African Americans has been one of struggle against prejudices and injustices. Take the more recent hit of Hurrican Katrina in New Orleans. African Americans had been left high and dry to literally be 'blown away'. As if no one ever cared. Emancipation although attributed to Abe Lincoln, honestly never truly happened. So while the whites made their millions on Wall Street, a silent community of Blacks wilted away in Harlem, taking to crime, as a means to vent out their frustrations. And now, when the American people have actually voted to be led by a man who is from a racial minority, the African American community somehow feels vindicated. As if their throats have somehow found a voice.

There is this whole talk of the American people pushing aside their prejudices to go all out and vote for Obama, that the people have finally decided to 'move on' and take off the tag of being a country where racism, although not explicit, lies in the undercurrent somewhere. But is that the real full story? First of all, in the popular vote, the win has been comparatively marginal. 52.3% to McCain's 46.4%. Secondly, he has swung just around 6 traditionally Republican states his way, while holding on to the Democrat stronghold states. So, while the electoral college system has ensured the large margin, the popular vote numbers do not really reflect a tremendous change in ideology! Granted, had America still been as racially prejudiced as they were around 200 years ago, McCain would have had a landslide victory. But the current socio-poloitical milieu and the bleakness of the future under a repeat Republican administration definitely tilted the scales in Obama's favor.

But there are a few strategic points that truly have made this campaign and race special. First - the heavy anti-incumbency factor brought on by the Bush Administration, thanks to numerous terrible calls by the World's most powerful country. Secondly, the appeal and the reaching out of the Obama campaign all the way to the grass roots, by harnessing the internet through social networking sites, emails and SMSes and making every single American truly 'involved' in the Presidential election. Thirdly the massive turn out of first time voters who decided that it was time they stepped up and pushed aside the status quo of the past by exercising their vote tilted the numbers precipitously in Obama’s favor. The truly informed, thinking population came forth and decided to make a difference and they did! Finally a few blunders by the Rep campaign seemed to scuttle the Republican ship almost completely, the Running Mate pick being one of them. So, yet again, the milieu, the opponent's failings and a very well orchestrated campaign, managed to win the game, fair and square for Obama.

Now, what next? A rather famous Bushism goes that when President Bush was asked how the White House was, he had replied, "It's White"! Racially speaking, that is no longer the case. But now, the people have chosen change and it is up to the new President to effect the change. The party is over and the gravity of the problem stares at America like a deep open gorge. A terrible economy that has actually initiated a wave of plummeting economies across the world, 2 wars that are dangling precariously at a precipice, internal economic divides and the usual security challenges across the world that need to be addressed. The World was watching the election with its eyes wide open, and they're going to continue to see whether the change is not just a change in the way a race is won / has won.

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