Felicia Muftic: Obama’s victory was wide and deep
November 10, 2008
Barack Obama lost Grand County by 127 votes, less than 2 percent of the total. This is remarkable given the fact that there are fewer registered Democrats in Grand County than there are registered Republicans and unaffiliated voters.
It is even more remarkable since Hispanic and black voters are usually given as an explanation of what contributed to Obama’s victory in parts of the South, the rest of Colorado, New Mexico, and Nevada. In our county neither group makes up a large portion of the electorate.
When I looked at the electoral college map, what stood out to me was the breadth of the victory. It wasn’t just the expected Northeast and West Coast Democrats who voted for him. States in the rust belt and parts of the new West and new South turned from red to blue.
Several phrases and words kept running through my head election night: One was a line from Tennyson, “The old order changeth yielding place to new”. Another was from John F. Kennedy’s inaugural speech: “The torch has been passed to a new generation”. A German word, Zeitgeist, or spirit of the times , was also on my tongue.
John McCain had a heavy albatross around his neck. The old order of the Bush administration, with politics of personal attacks, pitting one group against another, playing on fear, basing policies on an economic philosophy that did not work and supporting a war that most voters wanted finished, gave way to a new generation of politicos.
Obama put his finger on it in his central message from which he never deviated: change. About 53 percent of the voters felt comfortable enough to vote for him to be their agent for change.
The new generation voting for Obama consisted of those under mid-40s who were mostly color blind and who identified with Obama’s youth. Their turnout offset votes by older generations who feared change and who had their lives shaped by more culturally conservative eras and experiences. Race played a role, but not in the way many expected. For those who told exit pollsters that race was a major factor in their decisions, 53 percent voted for Obama.
Zeitgeist could also be translated as “timing is everything.” Not only did Obama sense that there was a deep yearning for a change, he also benefited from unexpected events beyond anyone’s control.
We could call it luck or we could call it signals from a higher being. I remember just before the Democratic Convention’s final night, a pastor in Colorado Springs, probably with tongue in cheek, prayed for bad weather to put a damper on Obama’s acceptance speech in Mile High Stadium. Instead, it was a glorious, dry and mild night. I took that as a good omen.
The financial meltdown mid-September could have held off for a couple of months perhaps, but it didn’t. Of those who had been hurt by the economic meltdown, 70 percent voted for Obama. As Hillary Clinton acknowledged as she hit the campaign trail for Obama, main street economic fears trumped questions about Obama’s past associations and lack of experience.
The tone of election night was very sober and gracious. John McCain’s concession speech attested to his deep sense of patriotism … that this is the United States, and Obama is our president. The concept of the loyal opposition is alive and well. Obama’s speech was neither gloating, crowd stirring, nor arrogant, but he delivered some strong messages: We are no longer red and blue states and a conglomeration of individuals, but a United States that is “from many, one,” and he put our enemies on notice that he will be strong against them.
Obama faces enormous challenges, but he is well equipped to meet them. We learned about his executive style from the way he conducted a almost flawlessly executed campaign and how he reacted to the financial crisis. He has the ability to set priorities and to make decisions deliberately and coolly. He brings to the table a disposition that brings people together. He relies on some steady voices with diverse opinions for advice, and he has the ability to delegate tasks and to synthesize ideas.
The majority of Americans have put their faith in his ability to lead our country. For the sake of our nation, let us all wish him well.
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