Shamik Das

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

They think it's Obama...

"Thank you, God bless you, and may God bless the United States of America"

... it is now!

THE dream came true for millions of Americans last night as Barack Obama became the first black President in US history.

Obama rode a tide of emotion to sweep to power by a stunning 349-162 margin in the Electoral College (EC), winning 52 per cent of the popular vote – seven million more votes than John McCain.

It began about midnight our time when polls closed on the Eastern seaboard, with the first big results coming in at 1am with the key swing state of Pennsylvania being called for Obama, followed swiftly by Illinois, Massachusetts, Maryland, DC, Connecticut, Maine and New Jersey to give the Democrat a 103-34 EC lead.

Then at two came New York, Michigan and Wisconsin – all holds for the Democrats – followed by big gains in Colorado, New Mexico and Ohio which left Obama only 70 college votes short of the magic 270.

Three am and Iowa turns blue, which, together with a wafer-thin projected victory in North Carolina puts Obama within touching distance of the White House, McCain all but resigned to his fate with not one single swing state going to the Republicans.

An hour later, at 11pm Eastern Time, 10pm Central Time and 8pm Pacific Time, on Tuesday, November 4th, 2008 and history is made: this is the moment Obama crosses the finishing line, a moment to savour, a moment unthinkable only a few years ago as he takes an unassailable Electoral College lead.

The big one, California, with a massive 55 EC votes, and the biggest shock of the night, Virginia – the spiritual home of segregation and slavery where mixed-race marriage was illegal as recently as four decades ago – call Democrat as Obama sprints across the finishing line, the impending triumph in Florida making it a landslide.

The new first couple: Barack and Michelle Obama    Fallen hero: John and Cindy McCain

McCain is one of the first to congratulate him, conceding defeat to a hostile crowd in Phoenix, struggling to convey his message above a chorus of boos and heckles, the Arizona senator reduced as so often in this campaign to pleading with his own supporters to show Obama some respect.

Cue joyous scenes around the world, from the arid plains of Kenya, the President-elect's fatherland, and the beaches of Hawaii to Times Square, New York, none more so than in Grant Park, Chicago, where Obama addresses a crowd of 70,000, though he could have sold it out a hundred times over.

He said: "If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible; who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time; who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer.

"It's the answer told by lines that stretched around schools and churches in numbers this nation has never seen; by people who waited three hours and four hours, many for the very first time in their lives, because they believed that this time must be different; that their voices could be that difference.

"It's the answer spoken by young and old, rich and poor, Democrat and Republican, black, white, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, gay, straight, disabled and not disabled - Americans who sent a message to the world that we have never been just a collection of individuals or a collection of Red States and Blue States: we are, and always will be, the United States of America.

"It's the answer that led those who have been told for so long by so many to be cynical, and fearful, and doubtful of what we can achieve to put their hands on the arc of history and bend it once more toward the hope of a better day.

"It's been a long time coming, but tonight, because of what we did on this day, in this election, at this defining moment, change has come to America."

Waiting their turn: Voters form an orderly queue outside a polling station in Maryland    There was an onld lady who voted for Obama: 106-year-old Mrs Ann Nixon Cooper

He then relayed the story of Ann Nixon Cooper, a 106-year-old African-American woman who'd seen it all, his oration sounding more and more like a sermon, delivered with almost Evangelical zeal as his congregation of thousands repeated after him the mantra of change, chanting "yes, we can" on his every prompt.

"She was born just a generation past slavery; a time when there were no cars on the road or planes in the sky; when someone like her couldn't vote for two reasons - because she was a woman and because of the colour of her skin," said Obama.

"And tonight, I think about all that she's seen throughout her century in America - the heartache and the hope; the struggle and the progress; the times we were told that we can't, and the people who pressed on with that American creed: Yes, we can.

"At a time when women's voices were silenced and their hopes dismissed, she lived to see them stand up and speak out and reach for the ballot. Yes, we can.

"When there was despair in the dust bowl and depression across the land, she saw a nation conquer fear itself with a New Deal, new jobs and a new sense of common purpose. Yes, we can.

"When the bombs fell on our harbour and tyranny threatened the world, she was there to witness a generation rise to greatness and a democracy was saved. Yes, we can. She was there for the buses in Montgomery, the hoses in Birmingham, a bridge in Selma, and a preacher from Atlanta who told a people that ‘'we shall overcome'. Yes, we can."

"A man touched down on the Moon, a wall came down in Berlin, a world was connected by our own science and imagination. And this year, in this election, she touched her finger to a screen, and cast her vote, because after 106 years in America, through the best of times and the darkest of hours, she knows how America can change. Yes, we can."

Read all about it: The newspapers tell the story of an historic day

What it all means, what Obama might achieve, where next for Iraq, Afghanistan and the economy are all questions for the future.

Now is the time for celebration, no little pride and the realisation that dreams can come true, that prejudice can be defeated, that hope can triumph over fear, and that a man can be judged not by the colour of his skin but by the content of his character.

From sea to shining sea, the coming of age of the land of the free.

We have overcome.

Obama-Biden '08 official campaign website
Extended coverage of Obama's triumph on the BBC


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