Four years ago, I had tears in my eyes. On Wednesday morning, my eyes remained dry. From the opening of Barack Obama's acceptance speech, it was clear: It wasn't going to be the same speech. No more "yes, we can." At most, "yes, we'll try."
Something in the man has died, and even more in the expectations of him. Not only his hair has gone gray; the hopes have faded, at least partly. Four years later, everyone is more sober and realistic. Expectations have been lowered and the thrill of November 2008 has not returned.
The thousands who celebrated at his Chicago campaign headquarters, some of whom had been there four years ago, waved their flags somewhat mechanically. It wasn't the same atmosphere, it wasn't the same spirit. Chicago 2012 did not resemble Chicago 2008.
And yet, it was still exciting. Contrasting the winners' portrait with the losers' supplied the real exhilaration. This story is still inspiring, even though it has happened twice in a row, despite four years that weren't as good as expected.
In Chicago, the new America - blacks, Hispanics and whites - celebrated together. In Boston was gathered the old America, uniform and alarmingly conservative. Boston was all-white; Chicago was diversified, colorful, much more stimulating.
Once again, it was proved that only in America can a coalition of minorities go so far. Think about Europe, or about Israel. Minorities rising to power? Sending one of their own to the top of the pyramid of power? Don't make me laugh.
The involvement of so many youngsters in the political process should also raise Israelis' envy. The youngsters of America have had their say, and they said it more decisively than their elders. They said yes to Obama in amazing numbers, proving that at least in America, youth rules.
Most of the world wanted the election to have this outcome, and a small majority of Americans said so at the polls on Tuesday. This is a tribute to America, which we usually love to hate, or at least sneer at. It's not just about the manners and customs of the world's most fluent political culture, with its loser's speech and its winner's speech, both admirable.
At the end of the day, America knew how to distinguish good from evil, right from left (in American terms, of course ), reactionary conservatism from enlightened liberalism, "pro-choice" from "pro-life" - and it chose Obama. America made the right choice. America was saved from the great darkness the various Tea Parties wanted to bring down upon it - the conservatives, the right-wingers, the Christians and the so-called "friends of Israel."
Sheldon Adelson made the wrong bet this time, thank goodness. Obama is also better for Israel than Mitt Romney, who could have brought disaster down on Israel by blindly supporting its whims, as Adelson and his ilk would have liked.
This is not the dawn of a new day, but the opening of a new era, the era of Obama the second. Obama II must be different than Obama I, in both domestic and, especially, foreign affairs. The world is waiting with bated breath for Obama II: May he only be different than Obama I.
The Middle East suffered the greatest disappointment with Obama I, and in this hemorrhaging region, people are awaiting Obama II perhaps more eagerly than in any other place on earth. Can a man change that much overnight, after an election? Maybe. Maybe not. The next few months will tell.
Meanwhile, we can at least cling to Obama's promise, "the best is yet to come." This is his greatest promise, and it still fires up the imagination, if only for a moment.
Here in Jerusalem, perspiration presumably beaded the brow of Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel's Republican, and worry clouded his horizon. The secret was known to all: Netanyahu voted for Romney. Now he's worried. He should be very worried over his failed, dangerous gamble.
If only for this reason, it was a joyful morning yesterday. It was the morning Barack Obama was elected for a second term and hope shone on the world again, even if a little less brightly.
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