President Obama

Our view : Barack Obama's candidacy, victory inspired many Americans, black and white

his agenda for change could set the stage for a new era of collaborative government

November 05, 2008

They got up early, joined long lines, withstood inclement weather. Some skipped school, others took off from work, more waited in record numbers for hours to make history and elect Sen. Barack Obama president, a first for an African-American in a decisive victory with the potential to transform the country.

The first-term senator from Illinois overcame Sen. John McCain with a new coalition of first-time voters, women, young people, African-Americans and Hispanics, giving him the mandate to help him reform the culture in Washington and bring about changes to respond to the 85 percent of Americans who believe the country is on the wrong track.

In Baltimore and elsewhere, many voters brought their children to the polls to witness firsthand what they rightly perceived was a turning point in the history of a nation long haunted by the shadows of slavery and racism. Since the victories of the civil rights movement, African-Americans have told their children that accomplishing any goal was possible with hard work. Mr. Obama's achievement proved that premise - for all Americans.

He promised to bring the nation together to help solve a multitude of problems, from an economy in the ditch to a persistent threat of terrorism in an increasingly hostile world. He convinced voters with a calm, self-assured candidacy that he was up to the challenges of leadership. Now, he must assemble a team to help him deliver.

Mr. Obama's first priority must be getting the economy back on track. It's what a majority of voters polled yesterday - some 62 percent - said was the most important issue facing the nation. The war in Iraq, health care and terrorism - the top issue in 2004 - didn't come close. Mr. Obama has already assembled an impressive, bipartisan array of economic advisers to guide him, including Warren E. Buffett and former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul A. Volcker.

The new president needs to keep people employed and put to work thousands who have lost their jobs in the mounting recession. A government-funded program to rebuild the country's infrastructure would be a smart way to start. The foreclosure rescue plan now stalled in the White House should be implemented so that hundreds of thousands of homeowners can refinance their mortgages and stay in their houses. Credit remains tight, despite an investment of $150 billion in U.S. banks, and that logjam should be cleared so that Americans can get the loans they need.

Mr. Obama's agenda for change was pitched to middle-class Americans, and he has the responsibility now to help rebuild their confidence in the American promise. Delivering on his pledge to revise the nation's tax structure to make it fairer - higher taxes for the wealthy, cuts for those earning less - is an important step in that direction.

Growing numbers of Democrats in both houses of Congress should provide the new president with a solid base on which to build bipartisan support for his program. And if they balk, Mr. Obama should rally his army of supporters via the Internet to change their minds.

Around the world, Mr. Obama's popular appeal should give him a head start in rebuilding relations with nations bruised by President Bush's unilateral foreign policy adventures.

Mr. Obama has convinced a majority of Americans that he is the man to lead them to a brighter future. But as he appropriately noted in a powerful acceptance speech, Americans must be prepared to make sacrifices to reach that goal.

Mr. Obama proved to be a consummate candidate buoyed by a nearly flawless campaign, sparked by his early win in Iowa, a sobering loss in New Hampshire and an inspiring "Yes we can" exhortation. But now he must govern, and Americans, Republicans and Democrats, should join him in this journey.

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