The United States, and the world, will wake up this morning to a new president, America's 44th. But it is already possible to congratulate the Americans, and even to be jealous of them. Just 54 years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that "separate but equal" education violates the constitution. Just four decades ago, Martin Luther King, Jr. paid with his life for his dream of obtaining equal rights for blacks. But yesterday, the son of a Kenyan immigrant was positioned as the leading candidate for the job of president of the United States and the world's most influential leader.
In this campaign, America also shattered another glass ceiling: For the first time in its history, the presidency seemed within reach of a woman as well. For months, Senator Hillary Clinton was viewed as the leading candidate in the Democratic Party primaries. And the Republican Party picked an almost unknown female governor as its vice presidential candidate.
Alongside the debate over the candidates' characters and qualifications, the campaign dealt with a wide range of issues. American voters had a plethora of opportunities to learn about the positions of Barack Obama and John McCain on virtually every issue.
The two presented their plans for ending the crisis in Iraq and thwarting Iran's acquisition of nuclear arms. They offered detailed positions on federal mortgage insurance, preventing home foreclosures, health insurance, fiscal policy, federal financing for research in universities, wiretapping, carbon emissions, subsidies for solar and wind energy, gasoline taxes, abortion and more. This was an exciting campaign from an ideological standpoint, featuring two candidates who offered very different paths. This was a magnificent display of democracy at its best, with a campaign that dealt with issues and not just with personalities.
The excitement generated by the leading candidate, Obama, both in his own country and worldwide, is also nothing to sneeze at. It has been a long time since any politician managed to draw such massive crowds. That is good news not only for America and Americans, but also for politics and politicians in every country where people have despaired of them.
The election took place in the shadow of a deep economic and social crisis, an army that has been unable to extricate itself from battlefields in Iraq and Afghanistan, and a worrying erosion of America's influence in the world. The grim mood brought millions of citizens to the polls who in the past had waived their right to have an impact. Whites and blacks, Jews and Muslims, all decided to give their votes to a candidate who is young, black and lacking in governmental experience. Old people and young people, including residents of "Republican states" par excellence, enlisted en masse to bring about change - one could even say, a revolution - in the White House and in Congress.
American democracy mobilized to rescue the U.S. from the serial disappointments of President George W. Bush's eight years in office. We must hope that over the next four years, both major parties and both houses of Congress will help the new president rehabilitate the status of a superpower that remains unrivaled in its influence over the peace and welfare of all humanity, regardless of race, sex or religion.
Yesterday, the U.S. once again justified its title as leader of the free world: It concluded a campaign that is a worthy model for emulation.
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