Being overseas for the election was a strange, but interesting experience. Everywhere I turned in India (and in Dubai), people wanted to talk to me about “Obama.” Literally, for some of the people that I met, “Obama” was one of their few words of English. That, and I guess you could add “change” to that as well.
As the pundits and prognosticators were predicting, the final tally was not close. Here are some random, general thoughts:
1) John McCain gave an amazing concession speech. Obviously it was very well written and delivered. But more than that he did something which was invaluable: he broached the topic of race and celebrated the significance of the event. I haven’t seen this talked about anywhere, but to me this is huge. With McCain acknowledging the racial-importance of the event, he in a way, freed up Obama to be “post-racial”. Obama barely acknowledged this aspect of his election, and instead focused (rightly in my opinion) on the huge challenges ahead of us and on what has been accomplished to date. This was enabled by McCain’s magnanimous, graceful, and powerful speech. Huge hat tip there.
2) What a 4 years. I still remember the feeling I had 4 years ago when I was watching the Convention and some guy I had never heard of was giving a speech. Within minutes I was captivated. While I’ve always been a sucker for a good speech (Kennedy brothers, Lincoln, King, Reagan, Clinton, McCain were all speeches that I had read over and over again), this was something new. When he talked of being a skinny kid with a funny name, and about things only being possible in America, I felt for the first time a tinge of identification. Hey, that could be me talking up there. I was literally jumping up and down during that speech. I called my friend Gedioen five minutes in because I felt like this was something else– something historic and he had to be watching it too. What a 4 years. I would have never thought.
3) Good night, Bradley Effect. Ford Jr in 06, and now Obama, in high-profile ways are putting this ugly phenomenon to bed. Good night and good riddance.
4) Technology disrupted. In ’04 there was big talk on the Dean campaign that he was the Internet candidate. Sure he raised a lot of money, had a great website, and did some organizing, but I failed to understand the hype. Obama had a rock-star team who got the Internet and used it in new and powerful ways. From the dissemination of key information, organizing volunteers, raising money, you name it, they did it. This is a book waiting to be written that I can’t wait to read. Chris Hughes leaving FB for the campaign is a genius and he should be ridiculously proud of his (teams) contribution. Change.gov is another brilliant one, and I think they’ll get an unprecedented level of qualified candidates out of it.
5) I don’t envy the task ahead of Obama. The country is in disarray and Obama faces one of the biggest challenges (if not *the*) since the Roosevelts. Things are ridiculously bad and getting worse. I don’t need to overstate it because everyone probably sees it already.
Some great election reading:
Every Presidential election Newsweek embeds reporters in both campaigns for a year with the promise that they won’t publish till post election. This is their story (uber-long and amazing.)
New Yorker on the campaign of John McCain.
New Yorker on significance of Obama.