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Saturday, October 23, 2021

The defining moment

In the end, the conclusion to the election was exhilarating and inspiring in equal measure. For some, euphoria, jubilation and passion persisted; for others, a sense of redemption, justification, nostalgia and even disappointment prevailed.

But while the results provoked an astonishing range of emotions, what should not be lost and must not be denied is that there has been a tremendous, remarkable, even epic transformation in America.

In this election, many sought a new chapter, leaving the past, embracing the future. Consequently, they voted for change both in leadership and in parties. At once, barriers once considered insurmountable crumbled, previous constructs deconstructed. Change unfolded, marking the passing of a generation, an ideology and an era.

But while we are in context, we must also look from outside context. The implications have been, and will be, numerous. And there are several overarching themes that have emerged from the narrative of this election.

The emergent politics

Elections are often conducted through a set of predetermined conventions, arbitrary rules designed through prior wisdom. Similarly, this year, the expectations were set, the battle lines marked.

But a strange event occurred – this framework became irrelevant. Obama didn’t subscribe to the old ideals. He redefined them – typical parameters of campaigning, organizing and fundraising were not just bypassed, they were shifted. Through the employment of novel campaign devices, a function of innovation and improvisation, outreach evolved. It succeeded.

With this success, under assault are our traditional assumptions of political behavior and our acquaintance with the familiar operational modes. Because of the power of imagination, methods evolved. Future politicians will learn from the basis of this model.

A new empowerment

The devastating losses of the Republican Party aren’t just an overwhelming referendum on the disastrous rule of the last eight years or the end of the destructive, superficial-emphasis era of Rovian-style politics.

More significantly, it’s about the empowerment of an electorate who became politically active and voted for the first time, a segment that previously had been disenfranchised by apathy or alienated by distrust in the brokenness of the system. Realignments occurred – it was touchingly moving.

Not least, this shift is indicative of a confluence of dissension and of newfound conviction. As a candidate, Obama didn’t win merely on sheer political talent. His candidacy was the expression borne out of a collective desire for forward-progress. It’s about hope. And this empowerment provides a crucial template for future political strategies.

A leadership reassertion

Another major emergence was the reassertion of leadership. In a postmodern time devoid of an authoritative figure and beset by discordance, Obama provided assurance.

Coupling strategic vision with a focused inquiry, he probed America to re-attain her belief in the spirit of positivism. He appealed to diverse voting blocs, convincingly uniting them with a common purpose and common belief. They reacted to his message, and he won in a landslide. This exemplifies leadership.

The phenomenal political bar Obama set for future leaders – charisma, profile, wit, temperance – will be defining. It will be a difficult class act to emulate.

Finally, Obama’s ascension doesn’t just illustrate the death of the old politics. It symbolizes the rebirth of an older one – an emphasis on participatory democracy, a rejuvenation of intellectual engagement and active discourse. And his triumph is a reaffirmation of the promise of the American Dream, where a combination of talent and hard work can reward dreams.

That this moment is breathtaking both in magnitude and in nature is not just testament to the extraordinary election. Perilous times mandate the elevation of the greatest acts. This is one such moment. America responded to this challenge, making history and preparing to continually remake it. For many reasons, it will endure.

America, this is your defining moment in history.

Celebrate the new beginning with ZACH HAN at zklhan@ucdavis.edu

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