Note: A slightly different version of this appeared as an op-ed in the Valley City Times-Register.
The longest election campaign in our history is over. America has elected the first African-American president.
No matter what you think about President-elect Obama’s politics, resume, and past associations, that one fact gives a certain heady feeling. America has outgrown its past and once again proved to the world, history need not be destiny.
The outcome was no surprise to anyone who’s been watching. Obama’s followers exuded a religious fervor. McCain’s most enthusiastic supporters regarded their candidate as damage control at best.
But as the election returns rolled in Tuesday night, for some reason all I could think about was, The Untouchables.
I’m dating myself, but I don’t mean the 1987 move with Kevin Costner. I’m thinking of the series starring Robert Stack as Elliot Ness, which ran from 1959 to 1963, and featured the voice of legendary, and infamous journalist Walter Winchell.
The series was about an elite police unit in Chicago, battling the mob machine during the Prohibition years.
In one dramatic episode, which takes place in 1932, the actor Joseph Wiseman plays a mob chemist, who happens to be crippled and can only walk with the aid of crutches. This however, doesn’t prevent him from murdering a few people over the course of the episode.
At the end of course, Ness arrests the chemist. As he’s taken into custody, he pleads frantically, “I’m just a poor cripple, what could I do? What could I do?”
Ness picks up a newspaper and shows him the banner headline, “Roosevelt Wins by a Landslide!”
“You could have been elected President of the United States yesterday,” Ness replies.
Tuesday, November 4, 46 years after that episode aired, 54 years after Brown v Board of Education ended legal segregation in schools, and 143 years after the 13th Amendment to the Constitution outlawed slavery in the United States, Barack Obama was elected President of the United States.
A good deal of the Democratic campaign involved grievance-mongering. It’s only to be expected, if you campaign on “change,” you have to start from the position that what you have now is bad enough to risk the uncertainty of change.
Our local Republican candidates (in state legislature District 24, North Dakota) also campaigned on change, as every challenger does, but couldn’t make the case that what we have now was worth changing. And in the end, change for change’s sake didn’t sell here.
Now here’s the irony.
Obama began his political career peddling the politically Left assumption that America is a broken country, which needs dramatic, extensive, systemic change. It is an article of faith among the Left that America was flawed in its founding, and remains a country of bigotry, injustice, and oppression.
As he neared the summit of his ambition, this theme became more and more muted in Obama’s rhetoric, and was symbolically renounced when he severed his ties with America-damning preacher Jeremiah Wright, and America-bombing professor Bill Ayres.
Opponents scorned this a political expediency. I prefer to think of it as political necessity. Religious fervor may bring you to power, but cannot help you govern.
President Obama renounced his ties with the grievance-mongering demagogues because his very success is proof they are wrong. America is still the land where a man is more than his birth and background.
And from this day forward, whenever anyone pleads for special treatment under the law because America is broken, and after all what else could they do, the answer is, “You could have been elected President of the United States.”
And congratulations Barack Hussein Obama, 44th President of the United States of America. May you be worthy of the trust the nation has placed in you.
Tomorrow this space goes back to being the Opposition, in hope that we won’t have to become the Resistance some day. But for today, a gentleman takes his losses with dignity and congratulates the winner.