George Packer of The New Yorker, the best American political journalist, has written a characteristically thoughtful piece putting the recent Obama victory is some historical perspective. I don’t think he exaggerates.
Barack Obama’s decisive defeat of John McCain is the most important victory of a Democratic candidate since 1932. It brings to a close another conservative era, one that rose amid the ashes of the New Deal coalition in the late sixties, consolidated its power with the election of Ronald Reagan, in 1980, and immolated itself during the Presidency of George W. Bush. Obama will enter the White House at a moment of economic crisis worse than anything the nation has seen since the Great Depression; the old assumptions of free-market fundamentalism have, like a charlatan’s incantations, failed to work, and the need for some “new machinery” is painfully obvious.
[The Republicans] tried like hell [to discredit Obama]. They called him an élitist, a radical, a socialist, a Marxist, a Muslim, an Arab, an appeaser, a danger to the republic, a threat to small children, a friend of terrorists, an enemy of Israel, a vote thief, a non-citizen, an anti-American, and a celebrity. Obama didn’t defeat the Republicans simply by rising above partisanship, although his dignified manner served as a continual rebuke to his enemies and went a long way toward reassuring skeptical voters who weren’t members of the cult of “Yes We Can.” It turned out that the culture war, in spite of Sarah Palin’s manic gunplay, was largely over.