While America celebrates Barack Obama’s victory–particularly for what it represents–Americans would be wise to remember that his win, while strong, was far from a landslide.
The media in 2008 like to speak of mandates and sea changes, but in fact, Obama’s victory is far less decisive than some other recent elections, and McCain’s showing was not half bad.
Via Wikipedia, I compiled a list of victory margins by electoral votes for all the presidential elections since the electoral college expanded to 538 votes in the 1960s. Obama’s win is mid-pack:
Year Elected Won Lost
1984 Reagan 525 13
1972 Nixon 520 17
1980 Reagan 489 49
1964 Johnson 486 52
1988 George H. W. Bush 426 111
1996 Clinton 379 159
1992 Clinton 370 168
> 2008 Obama 349 163 <
1968 Richard Nixon 301 191
1976 Carter 297 240
2004 George W. Bush 286 251
2000 George W. Bush 271 266
(Note: two states are still being decided; this post will be updated when the final votes are tallied and declared.)
Obama’s victory in terms of the popular vote tells a better story but also comes with a caveat. First, a tip of the cap: his 64,908,616 votes as of this writing are the greatest number of votes ever recorded by a presidential candidate. That is a figure to celebrate.
However, John McCain received more than 57 million votes of his own. Obama’s margin of victory by popular vote is 6.3% (which is to say, if the U.S. had a straight democratic vote instead of an electoral college, he’d have won, 53 to 47 percent).
This is a sound victory. But it still leaves 9 out of every 20 people in the other camp. Four elections in the 538-electorate era have had a greater vote margin between winner and loser. Richard Nixon beat George McGovern by 18 million votes out of 77 million; Obama beat McCain by 7.5 million out of 120 million. Yesterday’s win was solid but not overwhelming.
Still, this is an academic exercise–Obama earned a far stronger win than either of George W. Bush’s campaigns, and his victory forever alters the political landscape in terms of campaigns, backgrounds and style.
As much as anything I am astounded by the emotional reaction Obama supporters, including me, are having to the election result.
Hundreds of thousands of people are in the streets, celebrating, as though our nation has won its independence. People are elated! Full of pride, hope and excitement, invigorated in a way this country has not been in years, if not decades.
Today marks a seismic shift in how America views itself, and how the world views America. We can elect a minority candidate to lead our nation. We can back and accept an intellectual who does not hide his intelligence or pander to the ignorant (to which I refer Clinton as well as Bush). We crave pragmatism, we crave leadership, we crave class. We are ready to grow beyond the baby-boomer ideals and standards that have defined us for decades. We are not afraid of change.
The United States is no longer a country defined by narrowmindedness or simplicity. Our president-elect is wordly, clever, and cool. The nation is excited to follow his lead. Remarkable.
Tonight I am, for the first time in a long while, proud to be an American.
The Ideapad quietly celebrated its tenth anniversary Saturday. It debuted on November 1, 1998, a journal of pithy notes and observances buried within an early version of the personal website, shortly after I purchased my own vanity domain.
Over the years, this page has been chronicle and witness to an eventful stage of my life. I’ve used this space to write about looking for love, falling in love, getting a dog, getting married, having a child. I’ve journaled my travels across three continents–indeed, this page is older than my passport. I’ve gotten incredible new jobs, lost jobs, tried my hand at jobs, written about others finding jobs. The common thread for all of it has been the blog.
Thanks in part to the Ideapad, I’ve been published elsewhere, on websites and in books and, not least, in Metropolitan Diary in the New York Times. I’ve taught classes, sat on panels, and spoken at industry events from Manhattan to London. I’ve landed jobs with the help of this blog and been reprimanded by employers (twice) for it.
The page has seen its share of failures. I once posted about a waning interest in writing and promptly lost half my audience. I tried and failed in 2003 to heed some smart advice to do blog consulting; a year later, David Jacobs’s Apperceptive hit a home run with it. I never monetized my site or springboarded into full-time blogging, which bothers me more than a little, since I suspect I could have done quite nicely at it, and perhaps still could, if I were able to post four times a day instead of four times a week. All misses.
And yet. With this site I’ve done more than I ever expected. I’ve met new people, made friends, entertained a multitude of readers (hi, Mom) and satisfied my creativity a thousand times over. I’ve had people call me famous, call me crazy, call me Netwert. I participated in history when I used the Ideapad to communicate with the world on 9/11, and the lone post by someone other than me, a hard-hitting recollection of that day, became a historical must-read that still gets thousands of page views monthly.
Somehow, mostly by circumstance, this page has become one of the longest continually published personal sites on the Internet. I share this accomplishment with a fair number of other weblogs that debuted in 1998, the authors of whom became my peers, simply out of kinship; to this day I read their blogs, and now their RSS and Twitter feeds, sharing the past and present with the people who helped create the blog phenomenon.
I have come to realize this site helps define me. The observances and wisecracks and personal notes that live here represent my interests, life and career. I am pleased and proud that, ten years on, the Ideapad is still here, with the same name and URL as when it began. A scan through the archives presents a unique viewpoint on my life, as written for–seen by–a blog. I look forward to whatever it watches me do next.