This country, with its institutions, belongs to the people who inhabit it. --Abraham Lincoln, 1864
I cast my first presidential vote for Al Gore in 2000, and I did so with pride--with just as much, and I will confess perhaps more, than when I voted for Obama yesterday, and more than I would have had voting for Clinton if I'd had the opportunity. Gore was a perfect candidate for me, an earnest, laconic southern Democrat with a passion for the future of media, technology, and the environment, a student of media theory who would later make a popular, Oscar-winning documentary from a slideshow about environmental science. I don't mean to argue that Gore was a better candidate or politician than either, or that he would have made a better president, just that I was young, and cast an aspirational vote for a man I admired.
When Gore lost to the wayward son of the Republican Kennedys, I thought one nontrivial cause was premillennial tension. The future-tense geek lost to the faux-shitkicker faux-jock, the downwardly mobile son of oil money and establishment power. The message I got: we want to go into the 21st century just like we are. You may not remember it at the time, but Bush was the safe choice, the man who America thought it was and wanted to be in 2000. In 2008, his party's chosen successor was the son of a different kind of establisment power, from the history of American military might. And he lost.
Today, our president-elect is a young, brilliant technocrat with little experience and lots of promise, the leader of his party for the first time in his political career, a self-made man from nowhere and everywhere, Hawaii, Indonesia, New York, and Chicago, the biracial child of a single parent household with an African name given to him by his Muslim-turned-atheist absentee father, Barack Hussein Obama II, the 44th president of the United States.
He seems to many to be a surprising and radical choice, sprung from the desperation and desolation of the past eight years. The opposite is true; the change America voted for yesterday was a change that had already taken place. The man of the hour, the man of the people, is a man of his time. The century is new, our president is new, but the union that elected him is not. No matter what happens during the next four or eight years, the chorus of our union will remain.
The moment of victory inside Grant Park: