Saturday, November 8, 2008

Let's enjoy this, but let's move on soon...

I'm white. I'm the son of a civil rights lawyer - we spent part of my childhood in Mississippi while he filed lawsuits to advance African-American political rights. My first vote for a presidential candidate, in the 1984 Maryland Democratic primary, was for Jesse Jackson - not because I thought he was the most qualified candidate, but because I knew he was breaking new ground and I wanted to help.

So I'm excited we've just elected the first African-American president. It is a profound delivery on the promise that is our great nation. I think we should celebrate some about this singular fact.

But let's move on soon. I did NOT vote for Barack Obama because he's African-American. I voted for him because he struck me as the most competent - and certainly the least volatile - of the choices we had. I like him as he comes across in the media: He is of my generation, he is pragmatic not ideological, and he blends passion and "cool" and sincerity and good-natured humor. Yesterday he moved smoothly from profoundly serious economic and foreign policy questions from the press to silly ones about the dog and handled them with equal grace and a tone suitable to each. And when he blew it with an inappropriate crack about Nancy Reagan, he was quick to call her and personally apologize. I do like the fact that he's African-American, but that's much more of an abstraction than the fact that I like HIM (also an abstraction, admittedly, since I only know what I see and read by and about him).

Barack Obama won a larger % of the popular votes than any candidate in the last 20 years. He has promised to continue to work to bridge gaps and find common ground, and I believe him. We don't want his presidency to be about race any more than we wanted John F. Kennedy's to be about religion. I'm sure we all want it about the United States of America, so let's move on...

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