As Republicans and (some) conservatives sift through the rubble of the 2008 campaign to find remnants of hope for the future, there are a few things that stand out loud and clear – things which can and should form the basis for the Republicans’ message as they move forward.
The absolute most important message is this: RACISM IS DEAD. By that I do not mean that there are no individuals out there who harbor nasty sentiments about people who don’t look like them. But it does mean that it is long past time to announce that the American system works.
There are those who have been trumpeting this message for some time. And there is plenty of proof. We have, as a nation, already seen two black Supreme Court justices. A black Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff, who went on to be the first of two black Secretaries of State. And this does not even include the innumerable successful black businessmen and women, other elected officials, authors, musicians, educators, actors, economists, scientists, and so many other African-American citizens who contribute meaningfully to the fabric of American life each day.
Now, an African-American man has been elected President of the United States – the leader of the free world, and (arguably) the most powerful man on the planet.
It’s heady stuff. And it is a powerful message for Republicans. Why? First, Republicans (and I am speaking here of registered voters) can take a good deal of credit for Obama’s election. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Obama took the overwhelming majority of the African-American vote. But this alone would not have elected him. Obama was supported – just as he was cheered on in Grant Park last night – by Republicans and white voters in huge numbers.
Second, Obama’s election confirms what Republicans and conservatives have been saying for years – that Americans are willing to elect a person whose ideas they share, regardless of that person’s race. (And Hillary’s Clinton’s 12 million supporters, along with the nearly 50 million who voted for Sarah Palin on John McCain’s ticket, also demonstrate that Americans are willing to repose trust in a woman to lead.) Conversely, those who did not vote for Obama opposed him because of his ideology, his viewpoints, and his policy proposals, not his racial background.
Laura Hollis is an Associate Professional Specialist and Concurrent Associate Professor of Law at the University of Notre Dame, where she teaches entrepreneurship and business law. She is the author of the forthcoming publication, “Start Up, Screw Up, Scale Up: What Government Can Learn From the Best Entrepreneurs,” © 2014. Her opinions are her own, and do not reflect the position of the university. Follow her on Twitter: @LauraHollis61.