Late evening, Nov. 6, it was clear President Obama had won a second term. No, it wasn’t the big win of four years ago. Still, his victory was decisive. In electoral votes, the outcome was lopsided.
Believe me, I was so relieved. For weeks, I had reminded myself of Lyndon Johnson’s old saying, “You can’t beat somebody with nobody.” Deep down, I feared I was whistling in the dark. I was afraid that the still sluggish economy would beat the president. I knew of the tremendous hostility Obama had aroused among certain populations.
At the same time, I had followed the campaigns closely. I studied the stories about the get-out-the-vote strategies. I discovered that I wasn’t the only Obama supporter who was receiving e-mail appeals for contributions every day, often several a day. Meantime, I read that Obama’s appeals far exceeded what the Romney campaign was doing, even though the former governor was spending more money on TV commercials than Obama’s campaign.
Of course, I don’t imagine that Obama will be able to bring down unemployment overnight to the pre-George Bush era. I don’t imagine he’ll perform miracles getting the Israelis and Palestinians to negotiate a meaningful peace. At the moment, the killing in Gaza makes me heartsick. I don’t imagine Obama will lead America to reduce global warming in a few years. I wouldn’t bet on the president persuading Congress to reform immigration.
But for me the other gains of Obama’s win are huge. Just think that millions more Americans will have health care coverage. In time, with further reforms of our broken system, the outrageous costs of health care should be coming down. You can bet we’ll see a strengthening of regulation on Wall Street. We should see greater investment in alternative forms of energy. And I sure hope we see improvements in our social safety net. For many folks, the safety net saves the poor from becoming destitute. It keeps the disabled from going without decent health care.
Need I mention the Supreme Court appointments? Nothing about Mitt Romney worried me more. No doubt, he would have nominated ideological judges such as Antonin Scalia. President Obama’s choices undoubtedly will be responsible, middle-of-the-road legal scholars like the two women he’s nominated to the high court in the first term. People whose only agenda is to follow the Constitution and precedent.
Hillary Clinton? Bill Clinton? I’d like to see either one on the Supreme Court. It’s high time for a political leader to be elevated to the court, a person who hasn’t spent his or her career in the isolated world of the judiciary. Some of our greatest jurists – and I include Earl Warren, a former governor – spent their earlier careers in the rough-and-tumble world of politics.
Above all, President Obama’s re-election honors the enormous transformation of our country over the past 20 years. Hispanics have become a major political factor. Blacks, despite high unemployment among youth, continue to move into the formerly white suburbs and up the corporate ladder. Dr. King couldn’t have imagined. Even conservative young people hold more progressive social attitudes. Indeed, most younger people seem to be pretty liberal. Hey, look what the election brought for gay and lesbian equality! Voters in two states endorsed gay marriage. Voters in a third struck down an attempt to outlaw such unions.
As always, the country is changing. Such changes not only constitute a social revolution. We’re embracing greater civil rights, greater freedom and greater opportunity for all Americans. This isn’t the 1950s of my youth. I’m so glad that it isn’t.
At an editorial writers conference in Chicago, I met Barack Obama. He gave a luncheon speech, which was roundly applauded, even by conservative writers seated at my table. This was before he was nominated to be president. I had invited one of my best friends, Sheldon Rose, a retired university professor, to the luncheon to hear this young black politician. As Sheldon and I chatted on our way out of the hotel to Michigan Avenue, we agreed that this charming, articulate guy was our choice for president. An easy call for both of us.
I’m thrilled he made it. Twice.