An election unlike any other. I'm not gonna go hunting for the figures, but it was longer and more expensive and more awesome than any election that came before it. That is a mathematical fact! Made awesomer because America actually elected the right man to be President.
Here are the top 5 winners and the top 5 losers of this year's historic American election.
Taxes. Health care. Iraq. Education. Energy. Environment. Social security. Sure there was a lot of silliness that stands out in our memories, as there always is with an election, but both candidates had detailed policy stands and there was a lot of pressure to keep everyone sticking to the issues that matter. Including the Democratic and Republican primary season, there was an amazing total of 50 presidential debates. Fifty! You just can't have people meeting up that many times without gathering a wealth of substance to base your decisions on.
One of the reasons this election was so fascinating was how colorful the lineup was. First African American president? First female vice president? First Catholic vice president? First really really old president? And, of course, Hillary Clinton went far further than anyone before her towards shattering that ultimate glass ceiling. The most remarkable thing of all is how these breakthrough candidates managed to reduce gender and race to a mere afterthought.
3. The world
It's no secret who the rest of the world wants to be America's next president. They want someone who doesn't divide the world into good and evil, does realize that the world is complex, doesn't turn to war as a first option, and talks about non-Americans with deserved dignity. Restoring America's respect in the world was a significant campaign issue. Plus, the largest campaign stop of the year was a crowd of 200,000-- in Berlin.
2. Barack Obama
In the end it was the most unlikely of candidates who emerged triumphant. Born in America's youngest state to a white mother from Kansas and a black father from Kenya, spent four years of his youth in Indonesia, served three terms in the Illinois Senate, one term in the United States Senate, ran an incredible campaign, and will now spend the next four years getting America back on track as President of the United States.
Let's face it, the America that emerged after 9/11 was a monumental disappointment. It was more xenophobic, hostile, cynical, and stupid. But America is emerging the big winner in this election because they've picked the right man to turn that all around. It's an end of rushing to war based on spotty intelligence, an end to legalized torture, an end to bending the constitution for political gain. All thanks to the awakening of that unruly animal, American democracy. Has it ever been more alive?
Fed up with the fighting and hyperpartisanship of the past eight years, both major parties nominated senators known for their bipartisan appeal. This is not a collection of red states and blue states, this is the United States of America.
McCain can rightfully say that he has split from Bush on policies, but what they do have in common is a culture of cynicism. A skeptical, scornful, pessimistic attitude that was nurtured by and prevailed throughout Bush's presidency-- leaving America with a chronic lack of trust in their government. A central theme (the central theme?) of Obama's campaign was the promise of a leap beyond the hostility caused by Bush-- never to use faith as a wedge to divide, never to claim a monopoly on patriotism. That's the change America wanted. Change we can believe in.
3. Conventional wisdom
Who knew that a woman and a black man would be the last ones standing in a field of white male Democratic candidates? That having Bill Clinton active on Hillary's campaign trail would do more harm than good? That a town hall format debate would result in John McCain's weakest performance? That foreign policy would be buried under other priorities at a time that the US is waging two wars? The one rule to rely on in this contest is to make no assumptions.
2. John McCain
The independent-minded hawk that ran for president eight years ago was not the same candidate that showed up for the 2008 general election season. He took a gamble of pleasing the conservative wing at the cost of alienating independent voters, and it did not pay off. Not only did John McCain lose the election, he lost the maverick luster he had before getting the nomination.
1. George W. Bush
With his approval rating wallowing in the mid-20s, Bush spent the past week in hiding, and has had just one public event with his party's nominee since March. His reputation is so darkly stained that the mere suggestion that a candidate is Bush-like is instantly recognized as an attack. After all, who'd want to be associated with the man credited for two wars gone bad, a crumbling economy, a nationwide loss of faith in the government, and a worldwide loss of faith in America? Nobody, that's who. Bush's legacy is sealed. Goodbye and good riddance.