Cap to a two-year campaign

Students gathered in the lobby of Annenberg on Tuesday night to watch Obama win the election

Catherine Lyons
Steffi Lau contributed to this report
Daily Trojan
November 5, 2008

Sen. Barack Hussein Obama (D-Ill.) was elected the 44th president of the United States on Tuesday, marking the first time the American electorate elected a Black president.

As the seconds on CNN’s clock counted down to 8 p.m., Obama had clinched the 270 electoral votes needed to call the election. Well before California was even counted, commentators and McCain advisers conceded that there was no way for Republican nominee Sen. John McCain to win the election with Virginia, Ohio and Pennsylvania in Obama’s column.

All six screens in USC Annenberg’s East Lobby ran the headline “Barack Obama Elected President,” amidst the cheers, applause and tears of several hundred students gathered to witness the election results.

At press time, Obama won 349 electoral votes with McCain earning just 162. Several swing states that went to Bush in 2004 voted for Obama, including Virginia, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Mexico, Indiana and Florida.

With nearly 60 million votes for Obama, the nation resoundingly called for a stark change and new direction from President George W. Bush’s foreign and economic policies. Many say this historic moment which seemed unthinkable when this long journey to the White House began almost two years ago.

Obama, in front of a crowd of more than 100,000 people in Chicago’s Grant Park, told the nation that it was time to turn over a new leaf in American politics.

“This is our moment. This is our time — to put our people back to work and open doors of opportunity for our kids; to restore prosperity and promote the cause of peace, to reclaim the American dream and reaffirm that fundamental truth — that out of many, we are one; that while we breathe, we hope, and where we are met with cynicism, and doubt, and those that tell us that we can’t, we will respond with that timeless creed that sums up the spirit of a people: Yes we can,” Obama said.

Though Obama ran his campaign on a platform of change, he cautioned the American people to be patient facing challenges in the road ahead as he takes office during a period of financial crisis, two wars abroad and environment in peril.

“There will be setbacks and false starts,” Obama said. “There are many of you who won’t agree with every decision or policy I make as president, and we know that government can’t solve every problem. But I will always be honest with you about the challenges we face. I will listen to you, especially when we disagree and above all, I will ask you to join in the work of remaking this nation the only way it’s been done in America for 221 years — block by block, brick by brick, calloused hand by calloused hand.”

McCain made a gracious concession speech in front of his supporters gathered at the Biltmore Hotel in Phoenix, congratulating Obama for inspiring so many Americans to join the political process.

McCain also called for unity in combating the trials facing America.

“I urge all Americans who supported me to join me in not just congratulating him, but offering our next president our goodwill and earnest effort to find ways to come together to find the necessary compromises to bridge our differences and help restore our prosperity, defend our security in a dangerous world, and leave our children and grandchildren a stronger country than we inherited,” McCain said.

McCain’s remarks marked a humble and honorable end to a hard fought and, at times, bitter presidential campaign. Students watching at Annenberg applauded the tasteful tone of McCain’s remarks.

“It reminded me of the old John McCain I respected,” said Harrison Mantas, an Obama supporter and sophomore majoring in cinema-television critical studies. “It was very unifying. … It reminded me of why he is a good guy — I think we tend to forget that in the campaign.”

Dan Schnur, director of the Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics, called this the most important and historic election he has witnessed in his lifetime.

“This is a transformational moment in this country’s history,” Schnur said. “Whether you supported John McCain or Barack Obama, it’s important to recognize what a tremendous breakthrough this is on all sorts of different levels.

“This is a sea change for the way campaigns are run in this country and it has the potential to represent the same type of fundamental political realignment the country saw in 1932 and 1980.”

With the Democrats winning 56 seats in the Senate at press time and a majority of seats in the House of Representatives, Bret VandenBos, president of Students for Barack Obama, called this an election a “mandate” for the Democratic Party.

“This is where the policy decisions of the United States are going to fundamentally shift and that is an amazing feeling to be experiencing,” VandenBos said.

Though Republican leaders on campus were disappointed at the outcome of the election, they did not deny the healing properties this election carries.

“We hope that President-elect Obama will follow through on his promises to provide a different kind of politics, one which does not depend on a Democratic Congressional majority, but reflects responsible compromise with the American people and the Republican Party,” said Students for John McCain co-chair Allison Huff. “We embrace this opportunity, in good faith, that a post-partisan environment will prevail.”

Huff said despite being disappointed with the election results, the group’s leadership was proud of the contributions and enthusiasm of McCain supporters on campus.

“Our group is thrilled with the response we saw from USC students today to unite behind Senator McCain’s message of post-partisan reform,” she said. “Even though the national results did not reflect the outcome we had hoped for, the passion and energy we saw from USC students supporting Senator McCain gives us tremendous optimism that a philosophy of low taxes, strong defense and responsible government spending will prevail in the coming years.”

Amid the cheering, crying and hugging that ensued as the election was called in the Annenberg lobby, many students expressed a newfound sense of civic empowerment.

“This is something I fought for. I changed the world,” said Ariel Thomas, a sophomore majoring in business administration. “This is something that will have an impact for the next 100 years. I’m fighting back tears now.”

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