In a historical sense, Barack Obama's win probably falls slightly short of Bill Clinton's win in 1992 (370 electoral votes), but well ahead of Jimmy Carter's in '76 (297 EVs). On the other hand, he is currently leading with 52% of the vote--the first Democrat to do that since Carter, who barely--barely--made it into a clear majority. For a Democrat, it's a solid win, but not an especially overwhelming one. (The total will be at least 338; more likely, it will reach 364, and 375 is not inconceivable.) He's leading by roughly six million now, and that will probably rise to seven million by the end of the night (it's just the West Coast, and we're piling it on).
But in a different historical sense, we've just elected a black guy whose middle name is Hussein. This is way, way off the grid. There's nothing that compares. Our previous example was JFK, who was a rich, white guy who happened to be a slightly different flavor of Christian. Obama is an entirely new politician in America. At the nation's founding 232 years ago, Obama would have been considered 3/5s of a man, not eligible to vote, and likely eligible to be enslaved in much of the country. Even 47 years ago--the span of Barack Obama's life--it was inconceivable.
On my local news, they showed the celebrations for Obama in Portland and flashed to black citizens celebrating. Based on the paragraph above, this choice was arguably forgiveable. But it fails to recognize the rest of the supporters in the city and country who, whatever their race, are no less ecstatic at the prospect of a black president. He is OUR president. His race is not someting only others of his race can take overwhelming joy in. This is such a huge, huge deal to so many in the United States.
However, I'd like to think there are reasons to celebrate this election for reasons that have nothing to do with race. I didn't jump on the Obama bandwagon back in the spring of '07 because he was black. He's going to be the right president at the right time--his gracious, generous victory speech is a case in point. The country has been driven into a ditch, and it might be a booby prize to have won the presidency. But for the country, we need a leader who can work with everyone, who considers all possibilities, and who will inspire pride and enthusiasm among Americans. We have demonstrated some collective wisdom tonight, and we will reap the rewards as a result.
I find myself slightly unable to absorb all of this, but I hope to sleep well. Wow.