So Obama has won. It was all very much expected. In fact, the outline of this piece was written well before the official result. Still, it was an absorbing race from start to finish.
Voter turnout was exceedingly high and, looking at the footage from across the pond, people are more than content with the new president. In fact, at times people are displaying the kind of fanaticism for him that they used to reserve only for the King (Elvis, not King George III).
Certainly it’s an historic occasion. Forty-five years ago Martin Luther King Jr was writing from Birmingham Jail, following non-violent protests against segregation in Alabama. Water cannons were used. Now America has chosen as its President a man who defines himself as black. As is so often the case, the people of the United States have confounded expectations. Let’s hope this puts us on the path to not even noticing the President’s skin colour.
Stepping back from this significance and ignoring the failures of the Republican Party, it is worth wondering what the hullabaloo is all about. In so many ways George W. Bush has proven to be a remarkably bad President. A significant portion of the support for Obama comes in reaction to Bush. However, the fervour is more than this. It is the 'audacity of hope'.
Hope that the president will heal the economy and the sick, teach all children and offer perfect protection from terrorism and hurricanes. Such is the thesis of the excellent The Cult of Presidency. When the reality of hope kicks in, Obama may suffer the same fate as that first second-coming, Tony Blair. As we found out – things cannot only get better – they can get significantly worse. We live in interesting times.