One article is entitled, "Over at Last"; another, "America at its Best". The post-game reports are in, and the longest-lasting primary season in American history is over. I will strain to be optimistic, which means I’ll avoid too much American MSM and think tank churned poison designed to rile up the partisan blood.
1. Senator Barack Obama, as Amanda Terkel points out, has made his most substantive contribution to American politics on the process side.
2. The victory on November 4 is Obama’s to take:
Given the war, the economic gloom and the wind at the Democrats’ backs, Mr Obama ought to win easily in November. But first he must unite behind him a large portion of those who voted for Mrs Clinton. That will not be easy. Consider the example of Kathy Nicolette, a former teacher who thinks teachers are underpaid and oil firms to blame for petrol prices so high she may have to walk to work. She supported Mrs Clinton. But if Mr Obama is the nominee, she says she will vote for Mr McCain.
Sitting with her dogs by the waterfall for which the city of Sioux Falls is named, Ms Nicolette explains that she rather liked Mr Obama when he first appeared on the scene. She read his autobiography and was impressed. But she has grown to distrust him. His relationship with his former pastor, Jeremiah Wright, appalls her. “I can’t imagine how he listened to a guy saying ‘God damn America’ for 20 years and only now he distances himself,” she says. Many so-called Reagan Democrats will share her sentiments.
Come November, writes Dick Morris, a disaffected former aide to Bill Clinton, “Obama will still be black and the Rev Wright will still be nuts.” Charlie Cook, a more neutral analyst, takes a more nuanced line. Mr Obama’s problem is not just racial, he says. Many Americans, particularly older ones, are uncomfortable with his exotic background. If his name was Smith and he had grown up entirely in America (rather than partly in Indonesia) they might find it easier to relate to him. Mr Obama’s challenge is to refute the false rumours swirling around the internet—that he is a Muslim, that he sympathises with terrorists—and make suspicious voters feel comfortable with him. If he can do that, he will win, says Mr Cook. If not, he won’t.
3. On a uplifting note, "…this is the most impressive choice America has had for a very long time."
It is hard to believe after all the thrills and spills, but the real presidential race is only now beginning. In any other country, the incredible circus that has marked the past year could not have occurred. The business of choosing the main contenders for the top job would have been done behind closed doors, or with a limited franchise and a few weeks of campaigning. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, by contrast, have spent well over a year in the most testing and public circumstances imaginable—and that was just to get to the final five months.
The Republicans settled on their candidate more quickly, but theirs was still a marathon by anyone else’s standards. And the end of it was surely the right result. In John McCain, the Republicans chose a man whose political courage has led him constantly to attempt to forge bipartisan deals and to speak out against the Bush administration when it went wrong. Conservatives may hate him, but even they can see that he offers the party its only realistic hope in November.
The Democratic race has been longer and nastier; but on June 3rd it too produced probably the right result. Over the past 16 months, the organisational skills and the characters of the two contenders have been revealed. Mrs Clinton, surprisingly in the light of all her claimed experience, was shown up for running a less professional and nimble campaign than her untested rival. She has also displayed what some voters have perceived as a mean streak and others (not enough, though) saw as gritty determination. And she could never allay confusion about the future role of her husband.
Mr Obama has demonstrated charisma, coolness under fire and an impressive understanding of the transforming power of technology in modern politics. Beating the mighty Clinton machine is an astonishing achievement. Even greater though, is his achievement in becoming the first black presidential nominee of either political party. For a country whose past is disfigured by slavery, segregation and unequal voting rights, this is a moment to celebrate. America’s history of reinventing and perfecting itself has acquired another page.
But that does not make Mr Obama the new messiah. The former law teacher has had obvious problems convincing America’s middle-class voters that he understands their concerns. He has also displayed a worrying, somewhat Clintonian slipperiness on difficult issues, both trivial (whether he would wear a flag-pin) and significant (whether he would talk to rogue states). His victory, it must be noted, has been wafer-thin: in terms of delegates, a couple of hundred out of 4,500; in votes, only a few tens of thousands out of 35m. In the end, the Democrats have, very narrowly, opted for the candidate who has put together a novel coalition of blacks, young people and liberal professional sorts, rather than the candidate of their more traditional blue-collar base. How this coalition fares against the Bushless Republicans remains to be seen.
Sometimes, it takes a foreign perspective for Americans to realize what’s good (McCain v. Obama in the final contest) and what’s bad (American media complicity in ensuring "…the Democratic race focused on character more than content.")
So, how about firing all the reporters and think tank hacks and letting them dig the country out of recession?