As comedian Yakov Smirnov used to say, “What a country!” Americans witnessed history Tuesday night. Too bad nobody noticed.
Oh sure, the media took note -- over and over -- of the fact that Barack Obama will be the country’s first black president. That’s a first, but isn’t really as ground-shaking as we’re being led to believe. Obama’s election merely confirms what many have been saying for years: White-against-black racism is largely a relic of our country’s past.
After all, the country’s most admired woman (Oprah) is black. Our most respected athletes (Tiger Woods, Michael Jordan) are as well. Now our leader will be, too. That’s impressive since, within living memory, segregation was common. But in the end, Obama’s election merely caps off a process that’s been underway, if under-reported, for decades.
It could have some positive effects, though.
Word is that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will convene a lame-duck congress in the coming days. Who can doubt that its first order of business will be to immediately repeal all federal affirmative-action laws? After all, if a man of Obama’s admittedly limited experience can rise to the most difficult job in the nation, it’s impossible to believe anyone, anywhere needs a handout or a hand up. We can all -- as Obama has -- fail or succeed on our merits alone.
But let’s get back to the unnoticed accomplishment from Tuesday night. It’s a two-parter, really. America won the Iraq war. And Americans didn’t particularly care.
As a local television station reported in September, 125 people were shot to death in Chicago over the summer. That’s almost twice as many Americans as were killed in Iraq during the same time period.
Perhaps the new president will call for a surge to Lower Wacker Drive to quell the growing violence in his hometown. In any event, by early next year the number of troops in Iraq will have dropped to roughly “pre-surge” levels, meaning we’ll have about the same number of boots on the ground as we had in the fall of 2006, when it seemed Iraq would end in disaster for the United States.
In these two years, though, the surge has allowed our troops to crush insurgent violence and given the elected Iraqi government enough breathing room that it’s been able to meet benchmark after benchmark. We’ve effectively won.
You may recall that some, including President-elect Obama, were calling just two years ago for an immediate withdrawal from Iraq, even if that meant leaving in defeat.