KANE: A defining night for America



Jonas Kane

There ended up being no surprise in the election results last week, but the ascension of Barack Obama to the presidency still let loose a deafening celebration.

The incessant rumblings about the Bradley effect would occur or that John McCain was rallying a furious comeback proved false. But in those final moments, nobody cared. When the networks made the call around 11 p.m., millions across the country and throughout the rest of the world experienced a euphoria virtually unknown to modern politics.

The crowd gathered in Grant Park ignited like fireworks, and grown men unabashedly let tears of joy envelop their faces. Even at Villanova, once a dormant volcano when it came to politics, the lava erupted, and shouts of delight reverberated through campus.

For the second time in our nation’s history, voters chose to take a chance on a briefly tenured Illinois congressman; for the first time, they chose to elect an African American.

Obama’s election does not mean an end to racism or a quick fix to the multitude of problems facing the country; however, it does mean voters recognized the gravity of the issues and were willing to look beyond race to chart a new direction for the country.

Young voters in particular embraced Obama’s message. AP exit polls showed that 18-29-year olds made up 18 percent of voters and supported Obama by a two-to-one margin.

Obama’s support among younger voters cannot be overstated. They did not make up a majority of voters, but they did help drive his campaign from the ground up.

The brilliance of Obama’s organization has been evident here since last semester; the push to register students on campus during the primaries created new voters for the general election, and the effort continued through the fall.

At Campus Philly in September, I was approached by at least five different young volunteers who offered to register me to vote. The campaign also enlisted those who registered to join the effort of spreading Obama’s message.

McCain’s campaign was largely silent in reaching out to new voters, and this time there was no silent majority to propel him to victory. Obama won Pennsylvania by a much wider margin than John Kerry did in 2004, and his organization helped him eke out wins in more competitive states like Virginia and North Carolina.

Obama’s organization alone didn’t bring him success, but dating back to the primaries, it paved an avenue for him to spread his message to disheartened and struggling voters and to those simply yearning for something new.

Obama eventually grounded his message in policy details, but his broad messages of change, bipartisanship and determination formed as part of his life story. It’s what allowed him to succeed as a community organizer, to become president of Harvard Law Review, to deliver a spellbinding post-partisan speech at the 2004 Democratic Convention, and ultimately to overtake Hillary Clinton and McCain to win the presidency.

Still, one of the sadder elements of this election cycle was watching McCain’s admirable traits disappear behind the veils of deception created by the unfortunate individuals advising his campaign. Instead of running on McCain’s powerful biography and his policy proposals, they convinced him to run a campaign of smear and distortion.

Yet at least on election night, McCain reclaimed some of his old glory, delivering a beautiful concession speech that segued seamlessly into Obama’s acceptance speech. There was no bitterness from McCain, and there was no gloating from Obama.

What we the people witnessed instead was democracy at its finest. McCain, showing genuine emotion, urged his supporters to give the president-elect a chance; Obama told the 46 percent of the country that supported his opponent that he intends to be their president too and that he will need their help moving forward.

Nov. 4 was a defining night for America, and after the length of the campaign, it’s probably best to take a deep breath to reflect on everything that has happened. When we’re ready to breathe again, it’s up to us to ensure that Obama and McCain live up to their election night ideals.


Jonas Kane is a junior English major from Harrisburg, Pa. He can be reached at [email protected].