The Tide in the Affairs of Election 2008
Pundits make their living trying to tell us why politics happens as it does. They are always arguing about what the one driving factor was in a given election. Well, take it from someone who has worked in campaigns from the lowliest grass roots to the highest halls of power--not a one of them looks from the outside like what they look like from the inside. I don't care how "perfectly executed" the campaign might be. There's a lot of luck involved and there is never just one deciding factor.
But the biggest factor in 2008 was: it's just damn time.
People are ready. People are fed up. Enough trumped up war. Enough high gas prices and mortgage meltdowns and corporate greed taking the hard working middle class's life savings down with them. Enough slashing and burning of women's rights to equal pay and reproductive justice. Enough of a president who you might want to have a beer with (I personally don't) but who can't string a sentence together, and who squandered America's global standing at the same time he lost his dice roll that our economy wouldn't crash till he got out of Dodge with his cronies' fortunes safe.
The deciding factor in 2008 was simply that "tide in the affairs of men", and more especially, of women, that when it crests, get out of the way because that force for change will not be stopped.
That said, Barack Obama, unlike Al Gore and John Kerry who both snatched defeat from the jaws of victory, ran a strategically brilliant campaign. Obama saw the tide and repeatedly took the wave that leads to fortune. He did what leaders must first and foremost do: create a story we can all see ourselves in. He did it with his personal narrative. He did it with the race speech. He did it by tangibly engaging an enormous chunk of America, including millions of newly activated voters, in his quest.
We must also remember that Hillary Clinton would have represented transformational change too had she become the first woman president. I am sad I won't see her inaugurated in January. But the truth, much as it hurts me to say it, is that it is just damn time in America for Barack Obama.
(The full quote, lest someone accuse me of plagiarizing Shakespeare):
There is a tide in the affairs of men, Which taken at the flood, leads on to fortune. Omitted, all the voyage of their life is bound in shallows and in miseries. On such a full sea are we now afloat. And we must take the current when it serves, or lose our ventures.
William Shakespeare (English Dramatist, Playwright and Poet, 1564-1616)