Did Obama still win?
Yes, it appears that he did.
There may be a handful of folks surprised that the sun rose this morning, on the day after an African American man was elected the 44th President of the United States. But it did. And, I suspect, that handful is smaller than it ever would have been before today.
What still stuns me most is not so much the fact of Obama's victory although, to be honest, I'm considerably stunned by that alone but the nature of that victory. Just consider the popular vote: Obama's 52.4% (which may change by a tenth of a point either way, once all of the absentee and provisional ballots are tallied) is the highest mark for any President-elect in 20 years. By way of comparison, Ronald Reagan racked up only 50.7% in 1980, running against a hugely unpopular Jimmy Carter.
Obama won Florida. He won Virginia. He won Indiana, for crying out loud I would not have believed that possible, based upon my brief personal experiences in that state. North Carolina's 15 electoral votes may yet fall into Obama's column we're talking about the state that kept the virulently racist Jesse Helms gainfully employed for decades. Obama got 56% of the vote in New Mexico, and 54% in Iowa. He garnered 55% in Nevada, which, despite its proximity to California and its legendary embrace of casino gambling and legalized prostitution (only in counties with populations under 50,000, though not in cities like Las Vegas or Reno), is a fairly conservative place with a sizable Mormon citizenry.
The overall popular vote favored Obama by roughly six percentage points, which is fairly close to the final pre-election aggregate of the major polls. The vaunted Bradley Effect didn't manifest itself to any significant degree which, again, surprises me, but not as much as it might have a decade ago.
As ludicrous as it sounds, I think that popular culture helped pave the way for a President who just happens to be African American. Millions of people saw Morgan Freeman as President Tom Beck in the movie Deep Impact
; who's not cool with Morgan Freeman? (Well, maybe his soon-to-be-ex-wife, but that's another issue.) Millions more watched Dennis Haysbert as President David Palmer on the first three seasons of 24
; Haysbert was so authoritative and reassuring that he's now the "you're in good hands with Allstate" guy. D.B. Woodside then followed Haysbert to the 24
White House as President Wayne Palmer, David's brother and indirect successor. (I was going to mention Chris Rock as President Mays Gilliam in Head of State
... but that's probably not a good example.) Seeing these talented African American actors playing strong, capable, decisive Presidents may even at a subconscious level have planted the notion in people's minds that, yeah, okay, a black guy could
be President. You've gotta name it before you can claim it, as the saying goes.
Certainly, for President-to-be Obama, the tough journey is only beginning. Getting elected is one thing; governing effectively enough to get re-elected is entirely another, as former Presidents Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush could relate. Everything we've seen of Obama gives me confidence that he's equal to the challenge. How great a President he will be, only time will tell. But he will be President, which in itself is something special.
The additional symbolism of Obama as our 44th President resonates with me, too. One of my favorite baseball players of all time is Willie "Stretch" McCovey, the long-time San Francisco Giant whose number 44 hangs in retired glory at AT&T Park. McCovey was a smooth, cool, easygoing man whose quiet authority made him a respected team leader, and ultimately, a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame. His 1959 selection as National League Rookie of the Year, 1969 National League Most Valuable Player Award, six All-Star appearances, and 521 home runs including a National League record 18 grand slams contributed also. The Giants' annual "most inspirational player" honor, the Willie Mac Award, bears McCovey's name.
Although he won't take office for another 76 days, Obama 44 is already in the running for that "most inspirational" tag.
Now, he'll have to earn it.
In local election news, I was glad to see that my neighbors passed Measure Q, which provides funding (via a quarter-cent sales tax increase) for the SMART passenger-rail system
. SMART will run from Cloverdale, Sonoma County's northernmost outpost, to Larkspur in Marin County, where the Golden Gate Ferry terminal is located, with 14 stops in between. SMART has been on the ballot at least twice before, and has lost narrowly each time, mostly due to opposition from Marin County interests. (In 2006, SMART received 65.3% of the combined Sonoma-Marin vote, just short of the two-thirds majority required for a sales tax hike.)
In this era of high energy costs, and given the perennially impacted commute corridor on U.S. 101, SMART makes excellent sense. The railway easement, a now-dormant line formerly operated by Union Pacific, already exists. Now that funding is approved, SMART should be up and running by 2013.
On a related note, it looks as though California voters also approved Proposition 1A, a bond measure that will help fund a high-speed rail line between San Francisco and Los Angeles
, with eventual extensions to San Diego in the south and Sacramento in the north. Again, this transportation solution is an idea whose time has long since come, and I hope that the measure is officially passed once all of the votes are counted.
All right, election over. Everybody back to work.
One more quick note: This morning on KCBS News Radio,
I heard a psychologist talking about the effects of Post-Event Energy Deficiency, a condition many folks may be suffering in the aftermath of an intense and attention-commanding election. That's as may be... but that condition would benefit from a better acronym.
Labels: Cool Stuff, Getting Racial Up In This Piece, Hero of the Day, My Home Town, Random Acts of Patriotism, Ripped From the Headlines, The Body Politic