It's time to gush! Later for the analysis of all the hard choices faced by our next president, Barack Obama, but for now, let's just thrill, unabashedly, to the sound of those words. Heck, both he and we deserve a honeymoon, at least for a few paragraphs of this column.
It is "Morning Again in America," to reclaim and revise the slogan from the 1984 campaign of President Ronald Reagan, only this time the promise of an American renewal is in the hands of a moderate post-Cold War leader who embraces, rather than denies, the diversity and complexity of the modern world. It is difficult to imagine Obama ever asserting the arrogant jingoism that has come to mark Republican stewardship of this nation in the eyes of the world.
How refreshing for Americans to have elected a leader who was among the first to reject the imperial hubris that led this nation to invade Iraq over the objection of most of our allies. A leader who had the courage in the midst of a hotly contested primary election campaign to refuse to play the inveterate hawk in order to qualify as commander in chief, and instead had the audacity to advocate efforts at dialogue even with those we despise. The dead hand of Joe Lieberman has been lifted from the party that he betrayed. It is hoped it is also the end of the road for the neoconservatives who had rallied around John McCain as their last best hope for establishing a Pax Americana.
On the all-important domestic front, with our economy crumbling, it is reassuring that the man whom what's-her-name from Alaska derided as a "community organizer" does indeed have that background. It is not a guarantee that he will be mindful of those suffering most in this economic downturn as he turns to deal with the banking mess, but it is a start.
The Reagan Revolution of rampant deregulation of the economy in the interest of big business is over. Not because Obama has anything to do with the "socialist" label that the Republicans attempted to stick on him, but rather because a decisive role for the federal government is at the heart of the Bush bailout and the vastly expanded military economy a President Obama will inherit.
Big government is now officially a partial owner of big banks, and although we might bemoan that state of affairs, our collective credit card has already been swiped. The pressing issue is: What do we taxpayers get in return for bailing out Wall Street? Will the goal be to make the financial swindlers whole at the expense of ordinary homeowners? Or will it be the reverse of what the Bush administration has been doing? What is not in doubt, after the banking meltdown, is that the state will play a decisive role in the economy; what must be decided is: Whose interests will it serve?
If Obama turns to the Wall Street Democrats like Robert Rubin, the Clinton-era treasury secretary who led the crusade for deregulation, then he will betray his own fervently expressed concern for the fate of ordinary folks. The change we need is a divorce from the financial moguls who have dominated both parties. That's what progressive politics is all about.
We have a chance to move in that direction, thanks to the election of Obama. Not because the man himself is the second comingche, like all politicians, will have to be watched—but because of the movement he created around his candidacy, which I believe will hold him accountable.
The word of his victory came as I was making a brave effort to try to teach my large class at the University of Southern California, and from the cheering of students throughout our building as Obama reached the Electoral College delegate number needed to become president, you would have thought USC was just picked No. 1 in the BCS poll. Make no mistake about it, this is a victory of these students' generation—a generation that is no longer mired in the divisiveness and arrogance that had come to dominate the lives of their elders.
Politics will never be the same. The fat cats and back-office politicos are out, and grass roots—youthful and Internet-connected—will dominate in the future, as they did on Tuesday. President-elect Obama knows that, and, at least on this night, I fully expect him to be true to those who took him on this journey.
It is a night also to remember the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., the man who did so much to make that journey possible, along with the other heroes of the civil rights movement like John Lewis and Jesse Jackson, who did so much to keep hope alive.