Many of us are so thrilled to the bone with the Obama win that it's difficult for us to verbalize our feelings in a way that adequately reflects our joy. Luckily, the op-ed columnists of our nation's biggest newspapers and magazines have done just that. From Newsweek's Anna Quindlen to the Los Angeles Times' Michael Eric Dyson to the New York Times' Thomas Friedman, the chattering classes produced some of their most moving work on this momentous day after the most important election in recent history. After the jump, a round-up of columns from around the country, including the Wall Street Journal's breakfast of sour grapes and w(h)ine.
"Finishing Our Work", Thomas Friedman, New York Times: talks about the "Buffet Effect," in which old white guys claimed to be voting for John McCain in the country club locker room, but actually voted for Obama.
Why? Some did it because they sensed how inspired and hopeful their kids were about an Obama presidency, and they not only didn’t want to dash those hopes, they secretly wanted to share them. Others intuitively embraced Warren Buffett’s view that if you are rich and successful today, it is first and foremost because you were lucky enough to be born in America at this time — and never forget that. So, we need to get back to fixing our country — we need a president who can unify us for nation-building at home."Transformational Presidency", Katrina Vanden Huevel, The Nation: tells Democrats they should not fear their mandate; they should exploit it for change.
Already we hear calls that the new Democratic majority must not "overreach." That is code for "do not use your mandate." Ignore those calls—- this election was a referendum on conservatism that has guided American politics since 1980. After years of playing defense, it is time to unshackle our imaginations, build coalitions and craft creative strategies that will move, persuade and push President Obama and a new Congress to seize the mandate they have been offered."Brilliant", Rolling Stone: "Race, Post Race", Michael Eric Dyson, Los Angeles Times: Quotes Langston Hughes and Tupac, credits an Obama victory with reviving our nation's image, but cautions that we should not think racism no longer exists.
Obama, something of a re-founding father, now joins the pantheon of white men who have cast a bright light or negative shadow over the nation's political landscape. His interpretation of America's ideals and destiny will enliven the creeds that have shaped the nation's self-image."President Obama", Washington Post: Obama has the chance to repair America's fractured image in the rest of the world.
Mr. Obama cannot erase Mr. Bush's legacy, but he has a chance to improve America's standing in the world, ending such noxious practices as torture and indefinite detention with minimal review that have diminished this country in the eyes of its allies. He has the opportunity finally to set the country on a path to help reduce global warming. He has far-reaching plans on energy, health care and education, but also a realistic understanding that the state of the economy will delimit his ambitions."Living History", Anna Quindlen, Newsweek: America is simultaneously concept and country, and it has historically fallen short of its conceptual image. Obama's victory helps forge the gap between concept and reality.
He made the political spiritual. "In the end, then," he said, "what is called for is nothing more, and nothing less, than what all the world's great religions demand—that we do unto others as we would have them do unto us." He asked the American people to be fair and just, to be kind and generous, to put prejudice behind them and be one people because that is, not a legal or social imperative, but a moral one."The Next President", New York Times: Obama's victory was such a landslide because America under Bush has failed to protect its citizens.
His triumph was decisive and sweeping, because he saw what is wrong with this country: the utter failure of government to protect its citizens. He offered a government that does not try to solve every problem but will do those things beyond the power of individual citizens: to regulate the economy fairly, keep the air clean and the food safe, ensure that the sick have access to health care, and educate children to compete in a globalized world."Conservatism Isn't Finished", Thomas Frank, Wall Street Journal: Doesn't trust Obama's healing rhetoric, thinks the country is still bitterly divided, but conservatives have also been deeply irresponsible.
Turning our eyes from the presidential campaign to conservative Washington generally, we can see the same overripeness, the same flamboyant contradictions that have long since become too great to paper over. The conservative movement, after all, came to Washington under a banner of "reform" but promptly turned Congress over to lobbyists and opened countless regulatory agencies to the industries they regulated. The movement clamored for fiscal responsibility and proceeded to outsource, at vast expense, every government operation it could."The Treatment of Bush Has Been a Disgrace", Jeffery Scott Shapiro, WSJ: People have shown the great Dubya "classless disrespect" despite the fact that Bush literally drove the country into the ground. Apparently we should feel bad for Bush because he tried very hard to reach across the aisle and was rebuffed by dem mean old Democrats.
The treatment President Bush has received from this country is nothing less than a disgrace. The attacks launched against him have been cruel and slanderous, proving to the world what little character and resolve we have. The president is not to blame for all these problems. He never lost faith in America or her people, and has tried his hardest to continue leading our nation during a very difficult time."Obama's Victory Ushers in a New America", Joe Klein, Time: Focuses on the story of Obama organizer Nate Hundt, who campaigned for Barack in Algona, Iowa and really became part of the community. Hundt and his fellow Obama staffers are the future of American politics.
Indeed, there are — an army of them, untold thousands of young organizers operating out of more than 700 offices nationwide. And they have delivered a message to Rudy Giuliani, who sneered during the Republican National Convention that he didn't even know "what a community organizer is." This is who they are: they are the people who won this election. They were the heart and soul and backbone of Barack Obama's victory. They are destined to emerge as the next significant generation of American political operatives — similar to the antiwar and antisegregation baby boomers who dominated the Democratic Party after cutting their teeth on the Bobby Kennedy and Eugene McCarthy campaigns of 1968, similar to the pro-life, antitax Reaganauts who dominated the Republican Party and American politics from the election of 1980 ... until now. They are a preview of the style and substance of the Obama Administration."Hail To The Chief", Michael Gerson, Washington Post: Gerson was one of Sarah Palin's earliest and most vocal supporters so it's no surprise that he's acting like someone peed in his cornflakes. He sees no healing, only increasing polarization.
His victory is likely to unleash an ideological and vengeful Democratic Congress. In the testing of a long campaign, Barack Obama has seemed thoughtful but sometimes hesitant and unsure of his bearings. He promises outreach and healing but holds to a liberalism that sees no need for innovation…After a deserved honeymoon, the new president is likely to find that the intensity of this bitterness has only gathered. Because of the ideological polarization of cable television news, talk radio and the Internet, Americans can now get their information from entirely partisan sources."Obama and America", Chicago Tribune: Obama's hometown paper disagrees with Gerson. They believe Obama's unwillingness to participate in negative campaigning has already helped raise the level of political discourse, but they warn that America will need time to recoup.
By winning, he raises the hope of a more civil polity. His moderate tone may also ease the pain felt by John McCain's supporters, who will be waiting to see whether his administration is as inclusive as his rhetoric…[But] America's political rancor won't instantly disappear. Pollster Peter Hart recently found that one-third of each candidate's supporters have come to "detest" McCain or Obama so thoroughly that they couldn't accept him as president. Hart asked a Wall Street Journal reporter, "How do you knit a nation back together with this kind of animosity?""Nation Finally Shitty Enough To Make Social Progress", The Onion: 'Nuff said.