The Day After

We rounded up some Texas journalists and notables to give us their reactions to the long campaign which culminated in Barack Obama being elected the 44th president. Here’s what they said.

From Day One, Barack Obama becomes the country’s crisis manager—facing the fierce urgency of huge expectations. Problem is, he’ll be taking fire from both sides of the partisan divide.

His own Democratic Party, having won the trifecta of House, Senate and Oval Office, will want to pursue a partisan agenda and punish the GOP. Republicans, crabby and gathered in an undisclosed location, will be tempted to spend the next four years gumming up the works. But that’s exactly what voters, both Democrats and Republicans, voted against.

Karl Rove has now beaten John McCain twice—once in 2000 in South Carolina and again on Tuesday. Rove made hyper-partisanship the weapon of choice in both elections and governing. He fanned the culture war and played to the base with wedge issues and a swaggering politics aimed at destroying the opposition, not building durable coalitions to get things done. When things started going south for Bush and GOP, he had no friends. Four years ago, Karl was talking about creating a permanent political majority. Looks like voters Tuesday delivered one.
—Wayne Slater, senior political reporter at the Dallas Morning News and author of Bush′s Brain: How Karl Rove Made George W. Bush Presidential

A moment in history. At a time of tremendous change in the world, we took the biggest change America has ever taken. This is how, to a small degree, many of us Irish Catholics felt in 1960. We will never see ourselves the same, and the world will never look on us in the same way. A beautiful thing. And the lesson Obama taught us by taking a leap and running, even when most told him to wait four or eight years, and even though he probably felt slightly unready. When life′s windows open, we need to be prepared to make that leap of faith. Otherwise, that chance may not come back.
—Matthew Dowd, ABC News analyst and former senior adviser to President George W. Bush

When I graduated from high school in Fort Worth, no black student had ever attended any school that I had attended, yet in less than my lifetime we have come from a society that sanctioned segregation to one in which an African American has been elected to our highest office. That is more than an election—it is a wonderful moment in the history of America and I was thrilled to be there to see it.
—Bob Schieffer, veteran CBS correspondent and Face the Nation moderator

The morning after, it′s easy to just repeat the stream of conventional wisdom that′s available on blogs, Web sites, TV, and radio as I type. That Barack Obama rewrote the national presidential landscape—gosh, he won in Indiana! That he ran a truly incredible campaign that′ll be the new model for grassroots organizing and fundraising. That Democratic gains in Congress were a little less than many expected (newly convicted felon Ted Stevens looks like he′ll be elected in Alaska—what is going on up there?). That Texas continues to move, however slowly, back to something resembling an actual two-party system.

For me, though, watching Obama step onto that Grant Park stage, in front of 125,000 people, brought up memories of filming out in the Mississippi delta in the early 80′s, documenting races for county commissioner where watching blacks even voting, let alone winning local office, was like watching people walk from one century to another. Listening to Obama speak, I kept thinking that this is the guy I′ve been waiting for for President. Who actually means it when he says he′ll govern for everyone. That it′s time to move beyond the dysfunctional government of the last two decades. If he acts as President as he did as a candidate, all this might just come true, even with the mess that the country is in. Inspiration can go a long way when you want to lead. It helped win this election.

A friend of mine in western North Carolina, exhausted after a day of getting out the vote, sent me these lines from a Seamus Heaney poem that do a pretty job of summing up what last night was like.

…once in a lifetime
The longed-for tidal wave
Of justice can rise up,
and hope and history rhyme.″
—Paul Stekler, award-winning documentary filmmaker, and director of “Choice 2008”

Well, dear Texans, I guess it can’t be true that a really large number of you believed Obama was a Muslim. Thank God for that! My reaction to the election outcome is one of giddy relief. America is ready for change, new ideas, and a new outlook on international life. And we better be ready to work for all that because the new President faces the worst challenges of anyone ever to ascend to the office.

Most likely because the dangers are so immense, we may even be disappointed in government again, but I have my fingers crossed. And I am still with the Churchill quote on democracy. “…the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried.”

It is such a relief to be a Texan and now not have to apologize for the President we sent to the White House.
—Liz Smith, the “Grande Dame of Dish” and celebrated gossip columnist

Maybe, as many have said, it took a confluence of events, a perfect storm, for America to elect a black man president. A shattered economy, a failed Republican presidency, a lingering, unjustified foreign war, and a brilliant, charismatic candidate who ran a superb campaign. Oh, and let’s not forget, Sarah Palin and John McCain. Maybe it took all that for this country to overlook race and vote for a candidate with a strange name and exotic background.

I’m not sure it matters that Obama’s election required a perfect storm. When you break barriers as immense as this, does it matter how you got there? I think the forward momentum and the surmounting of age-old prejudices are what are important, are what will shape us for years to come and change us forever—and not how we

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