An odd thing happened after Barack Obama was elected President. His approval ratings went up.
A little more than half the electorate voted for Obama, and now two-thirds of the country say they approve of him. That kind of popularity bump doesn’t usually happen days after an election.
The bump says to me that about a third of McCain’s votes were soft votes. These people considered McCain the better of two reasonable choices, so they had no trouble switching their allegiance to Obama once the election was over. The result is, we’re a more united country than we seemed to be during the campaign, which is a good thing after eight years of rancor and division.
The fact that voters could switch their allegiance so easily also says that the Republican fear campaign with its lies, distortions and innuendos, the claims that Obama is a dangerous Muslim socialist who palls around with terrorists, didn’t take. When voters saw Obama in the debates and his televised speeches, most of them decided there was nothing there to fear. They actually took comfort in his calm, assured demeanor.
I’d like to think the all-negative-all-the-time strategy of the McCain campaign hurt him. If so, candidates in future elections will have to wonder, “If I go too negative, will it cost me votes?”
It’s also possible that some McCain voters turned into Obama supporters because they want to participate fully in this moment in American history when an African American was elected President. They want to share in the pride his supporters feel without the lingering bitterness that usually hangs on after your candidate loses.
It’s been said a thousand times in a thousand ways since the election, but it bears repeating. A man who, because of his African ancestry, would have been someone’s property if he lived 150 years ago and certainly wouldn’t have been allowed to vote, a man who couldn’t have slept in some hotels or eaten in some restaurants and whose children wouldn’t have been allowed to attend some public schools as recently as 50 years ago, will soon be President of the United States. While most of the civil rights gains made by African Americans have been the result of war, legislation and Supreme Court decisions, this time the people of our country, in a free election, decided that Barack Obama is the person best equipped to lead the nation for the next four years.
You don’t have to be a Democrat to feel pride in this moment. You don’t even have to be an American. Most of the world is looking at us with a renewed sense of respect knowing that we have transcended one of the most shameful parts of our history with this one bold move.
Obama contains so many of our disparate elements within him that he bridges racial and cultural divides and helps us heal old wounds. His family has its roots in Europe, Africa and Asia. His earliest schoolmates were Indonesian. He spent his teenage years in multicultural Hawaii. He settled in Chicago as an adult, making him the first President since Kennedy to have soaked in the essence of one of our major northern cities. He is a living embodiment of the diversity which is one of our greatest strengths.
No one knows what kind of president this multi-faceted man will make. We’ll find out soon. He’ll be tested quickly and often as he grapples with the problems we face at home and abroad. Supporters like me are sure to be disappointed by some of his policy decisions and angry about the compromises he’ll be forced to make.
But like two-thirds of the country, I approve of our President-elect. To be honest, I’m beside myself with joy. We picked a man who possesses intelligence, poise and leadership skills in abundance. We made a very, very good choice.
David Safier is a regular contributer to Blog for Arizona.