Obama's Victory as Progress, Not History

Chicago, IL - This victory is actually more than historic. The election of President-elect Obama marks political progress far broader than race, especially since his campaign prioritized its absence whenever possible. The tens of thousands of people cheering here in Grant Park, at one of the largest election celebrations in history, are not just heralding another barrier broken in America. They are honoring a promise fulfilled - the advancement of a rare political leader who addresses the public honestly, engages his opponents respectfully, and communes with his supporters openly, building an agenda through a participatory politics that empowers organizers and upends civic culture by growing the electorate.

In political terms, that means Obama did not win "red states" on Tuesday by treating them like red states. He did not energize his "base" by neglecting it. He did not convert those famous "swing voters" by pandering with cartoonish paeans to their occupational and cultural identities. After all the soundbites piled up, in fact, it was still Obama who had an actual policy conversation with Joe The Plumber, while McCain invoked the everyman as a distant human prop.

Across the country, with their votes and their activism, people are firmly backing this famous "change" agenda. Some scuffling over credit, priorities and ideology is inevitable, but the core priorities are pretty clear. End the Iraq war; renew the economy; conquer corruption; prioritize alternative energy; pursue universal health care; and renew our civic life with a politics of good faith. It is ambitious, difficult and long overdue.

Ari Melber is with the Obama campaign in Chicago for The Washington Independent.