As the television cameras panned across the faces in the crowd waiting to hear the President speak in Chicago early Wednesday morning, the watching world took a long look at America's new governing coalition: blacks, Hispanics, Asians, younger women, college students, professionals, public sector and unionized workers.
Every other progressive, center-left political party in the democratic world will be asking itself in the months ahead: How do we put such a coalition together in our country?
At a time when politics only seems to divide, the President's achievement was a vindication of the power of politics to bring people together. People divided by race, income, class and ethnicity doesn't just coalesce. They have to be given a language of interests and values that enables them to rise above all that sets them apart. The President found that common language and his ground game team turned out the new coalition in their millions.
They are the power in the land and they have spoken. The country remains divided, but some positions in the old debates will never win an election again. The argument about abortion will continue, but candidates can no longer win in America if they deny that there are some circumstances in which a woman must have a right to choose. Resistance to gay marriage will continue in some religious communities, but the side that believes that America must deliver marriage equality to all has clearly won the argument. Now it must win the battle for legislation. Resistance to immigration will continue but the side that supports a path to citizenship for newcomers can now see the legislative road forward to humane immigration reform. The side that believes America must provide medical coverage for all has emerged victorious. The coalition that believes income inequality is bad for growth and harmful to social cohesion has prepared the ground for reform of the tax code and responsible increases in taxation of the rich. The side that believes climate change poses an imminent threat defeated the side that believes in more coal-fired power stations.
The election put an end to some arguments and it decided what the argument will be about going forward: how to use the power of government to make sure that America retains sovereignty where it counts most, creating the next generation of jobs. Economic sovereignty was once an issue just for smaller countries and weaker economies. Now it's America's challenge as well.
Americans are struggling to maintain their faith that their nation controls its own economic destiny. Their strong support for the auto bailout tells you that Americans won't vote for politicians who leave their economic fate to the market alone. They don't want to be abandoned by government when the storms--both natural and economic--beat upon their shores. The President understood Americans' longing for effective sovereignty over their economic fate, and that is why he has four more years to prove to them, once again, that they do control their destiny.