November 4th 2008 – a day surely to go down in history. Barack Obama has made it into the history books, becoming the first ever black candidate to win a Presidential Election. Over 120 million Americans cast their votes; some flying back from across the world, others using park benches as their home addresses, queuing for hours to vote for Barack Obama. Never before has any candidate received so many votes, rivalling the Democratic victory of Lyndon Johnson almost 50 years ago. But why is it that he has made it this far, and will become the first ever black President of the USA when he is inaugurated in January?
I remember standing bleary eyed in the bathroom at about eight am on the morning of November 5th when my Mum came in and asked ‘Have you heard?’ When I told her I hadn’t she merely responded with ‘he did it!’ along with a big grin on her face. Half asleep due to staying up the previous night watching the election show (I only saw the first electoral college results come in) I still remember smiling to myself and feeling glad that this man had achieved his hopes and dreams, and would soon be the most important and influential man in the world.
Obama’s victory speech ran headlines of every newspaper the next morning, reports flying everywhere of the momentous event that had occurred. His speech, which has since been named and declared as one of the best speeches made to date, in which he clearly addresses everyone in America. “If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible,” declared the President-elect, “who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time, who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer.”
But what is it about Obama that makes him so desirable as a president? I hadn’t heard his speeches. I hadn’t been greeted at the door by one of his supporters encouraging me to vote. I hadn’t heard about what he was going to do. Yet I, like so many others liked the look of Obama. Search him on google images and you’ll see that 80% of the pictures, he is smiling in. The other 20% he is making a speech in, and can be forgiven. He looks like a nice guy. He acts like one too, as throughout his campaign he has reminded us that he is a true family man. His wife, and the next first lady Michelle Obama has remained by his side for support throughout the twenty-one strenuous months of his campaign, as well as his two young daughters who he promised a puppy if he made it to the White House. Does the fact that we see him as an all-rounded man make us like him? I think so. It shouts out to the audience he is loving, caring and generally a kind man, which does support his case.
One main issue that surely picked up hundreds of thousands of voters was his policies and how he is going to run America next year. To kick start the economy, Obama plans to pump $50 billion dollars into it, alongside introducing major tax cuts to all working Americans and fighting for fair trade using new agreements. He also plans to come to an agreement to end the war in Iraq, make healthcare more affordable, and invest in more, better childhood education. Of course this all seems very rosy, especially when you regard it alongside http://www.barackobama.com/issues/ which highlights all that is wrong with the other candidate John McCain’s policies. Even scanning through what he aims to do does give a positive impression that he has thought through what he wants for America carefully, giving him a professional air, that makes the public want to trust him.
Despite being one of his weaknesses too, one of Obama’s strengths has been his youth. At just 47 years of age he would be one of the youngest ever presidents. As a middle aged ‘family man’ many more people find it easier to relate to him, and what he wants to do. The other candidate John McCain had been criticized for being too old to be president, and this is something that Obama definitely had on his side – youth. In addition, for all those who claimed he did not have enough experience (he only became senator in 2004) it can be argued that Joe Biden, his running partner will make up for this – he is 65 years of age and has decades of politics on his side. The youth that he put across in his campaigns not only encouraged more people to vote for him, but introduced a higher proportion of younger voters, ones that can closely relate to him, and look up to him as someone with a fresh face, and a fresh view for change in America.
The incredible journey to the White House has been an amazing victory for blacks everywhere. It could be partly due to the colour of his skin that Obama was voted in, in an attempt to prove to the USA that equality has truly been achieved. Looking back in history, it is forty years since the defined ‘end’ to the Civil Rights Movement, marked by the death of Martin Luther King being shot on a hotel balcony. Little over fifty years ago, blacks couldn’t vote, were segregated in schools, restaurants and other public facilities and faced fatal discrimination from vigilante groups such as the KKK. This continued well into the 50s and 60s, after the CR movement was sparked off, despite rulings declaring segregation unconstitutional, and giving blacks political freedoms including the right to vote. A few decades later and America has come so far in terms of racial equality. No one could ever have predicted that this would happen fifty years ago when white and blacks couldn’t even sit in the same restaurant, but since then the USA has drastically changed. It could be argued that many people wanted to change history by ensuring that a black candidate was elected into the white house, and his colour played a big part in his victory.
Furthermore, the amount of money and publicity that Obama pumped into his election process can be seen as a major factor in his victory. Taking a look at barackobama.com it is clear to see there is no extent to the publicity that can be gained through merchandise. From t-shirts to mugs, badges to flags, Obama hasn’t skimped on this area of his campaign. This is just one sector that he has spent money on in order to gain the maximum amount of publicity possible for his case. This is not counting various interviews, billboards, TV appearances and visits throughout his campaign to ensure he was the next president of the USA. It is unclear exactly how much money Obama and the democrats have spent on the campaign overall, but latest figures show it as around 470 billion dollars. Debates have highlighted that this is an obscene amount of money that could and should have been spent elsewhere, especially in the current economic downturn. The high cost of Obama’s presidential campaign can be seen as a pivotal factor in his victory.
Overall, there are many factors that determined why Barack Obama won this election. After all, it was very close, indicating that John McCain did have a substantial amount of support also. But at the end of the day history has somehow been made as a result of time, effort, money and various other reasons. On the other hand, maybe America just wanted George Bush out of the white house, and were determined to vote for the complete opposite of everything he stood for. Enter Obama.