What a long and strange race it has been.
The past year we have watched a wide array of candidates vie for the chance to be our forty-fourth president until it finally came down to the two major contenders for the office, Senator John McCain and Senator Barack Obama. Both ran aggressive and well-funded campaigns, with the candidates together raising over $1 billion for the first time in history. Furthermore, a huge percentage of Obama’s funds were donated by individuals, with a significant number of small contributions coming from people who were giving to a political campaign for the first time.
Obama’s success overall can be to a great extent attributed to the huge number of first-time voters, contributors and volunteers that came out in support. Americans were inspired and moved to action more than ever before.
Election Day itself seemed to go smoothly, certainly more so than the tempestuous races of recent years. Across the entire country voters cast their ballots yesterday, electing Barack Obama by margins unseen by a Democratic candidate in decades.
Jason Rae, Chair of Wisconsin College Democrats, remarked, “I think we saw Americans wanting change, wanting to believe again in their government and in their country. Tonight’s result showed that the American people believe Senator Obama and his vision for America.”
But what does this vision entail? President-Elect Barack Obama has laid out extensive plans for his administration, which include tackling the current economic crisis as well as taking on key issues which require widespread reform. Addressing the present state of the economy will clearly be top priority for the president elect. Obama has stated he will attend to the housing crisis as one of his first acts, providing incentives for banks to refinance or buy outstanding mortgages. He also plans to change bankruptcy laws to empower judges to modify families’ mortgages, allowing more Americans to remain in their homes.
To jumpstart the economy overall, Obama has pledged to pursue another goal of his, creating a large number of new jobs in the alternative energy sector. Additionally, he has proposed a cap-and-trade system for carbon emissions, which will allow Congress to sell permits for burning fossil fuels. The money from this endeavor will then go to tax credits for green companies, energy research grants, and loans for improving the efficiency of plaguing industries such as car manufacturing.
Other major goals for the Obama administration include the improvement of our health care and education systems. As often discussed throughout the campaign, Obama plans to require employers to cover their employees’ health insurance and will lower costs to each family by $2500. He further will work to require health insurance for all children, with the eventual goal of universal coverage.
Great importance has also been placed on education reform and retooling No Child Left Behind to reduce its emphasis on testing and the penalizing of underperforming schools. Opposed to school vouchers, Obama instead supports increased funding allocated to charter schools and an expansion of early-childhood programs. Ultimately, Obama’s goal is to make a college education a realistic possibility for all.
Another main point laid out in Obama’s plan for America addresses the current military situation in Iraq and Afghanistan. Long holding the position that a timetable for troop withdrawal from Iraq is necessary, Obama hopes to have half of all U.S. troops out of the country by May of 2010. He further believes that our focus and resources should presently be switching toward Afghanistan to fight against the Taliban and al-Qaeda.
In addition to simply increasing troop levels, Obama believes in the necessity of better training Afghan forces and providing assistance to Afghan civilians, giving them alternative means of making a living apart from poppy-farming. Finally, his administration will pursue means of securing Afghanistan’s border with Pakistan and reducing corruption in the area. With a solid Democratic majority, these challenging goals can viably be achieved in the years to come.
While Barack Obama has accomplished a number of impressive feats in the past months, he most notably has managed to inspire a feeling of faith in the direction our country is now headed. He has pledged to make every effort to bring Americans together, no matter their party affiliation, with the goal of improving the quality of life for everyone.
Marecca Vertin, a member of the Marquette Obama team and poll monitor, agreed that “decent health care, a decent education, and general accountability from government are not actually divisive issues for most Americans.” She added, “The huge increase in voter turnout for Obama proves that this campaign made it clear that we can get real work done together without being radically left- or right-wing but by… acting in the generally moderate interests of the American people.”
After a long and hard-hitting campaign from both candidates, cooperation will now be the key to moving forward to achieve the change Americans desire.
Matt Dambach, chair of Students for McCain at Marquette, is of the same opinion. “At the end of the day both Republicans and Democrats have the same goal of doing what is best for our nation,” he says.
Both sides can further agree that with voter turnout at incredible highs this year, the increased political dialogue among American citizens can only have positive results. Dambach commented that “one of the great positives from this election cycle is the involvement of millions of new voters; involvement which will only make our country better in years to come.” Barack Obama, now the face of our country and representative of millions of Americans, will lead this country in a new direction.
That direction is one which will bring supporters of both parties together, moving forward and making this great nation even stronger as we work together for change.