Just after MSNBC declared an Obama victory in the 11pm hour Eastern time on Tuesday night, the liberal network's tributes to the history (and the defeat of prejudice and the "right wing") flowed naturally.
Keith Olbermann proclaimed: "You've seen those videotapes of Walter Cronkite, the night that man landed on the moon for the first time, when Neil Armstrong stepped out, and he could just barely get out monosyllables. Politically, that's what this is. This is man on the moon."
Rachel Maddow compared it to the Emancipation Proclamation: "Slaves built our national capital, that slavery built the firmament of so much of what we think of as the great founding of this nation. And to have, essentially, to have a moment that means this much that you can put alongside the Emancipation Proclamation in our history, in terms of what the idea of America is, and what the relationship of what Americans are to one another, so we can speak to the world with a clearer voice. I mean, it’s sort of worth crying about."
Chris Matthews thought it was awfully big of poorer people to vote for Obama in a time of economic stress, since bad times usually result in racial prejudice among those with lesser educations:
If you don’t have that educational advantage, you fear competition. You see the rise of other ethnic groups, you see the challenges that face you, and you lack the confidence that comes with, ‘well, I think change is a good idea.’ Better-off people say ‘change, let’s try something new.’ When you’re really holding on to a job and barely able to -- your factory is closing, you’re out of work and your option is an $8 an hour job somewhere, flipping burgers, you’re not exactly thrilled by the rising aspirations of other groups. You’re going, ‘wait a minute, they’re passing me by.’
But a guy or a woman who’s doing well says, ‘no, I can take the competition, in fact, I want to live in a better society,’ and you’re much more generous about it. By the way, the amazing thing about this is we’ve made this big social change in picking an African-American at a time of social stress and economic stress. Usually when societies face economic and social stress, they get much more conservative and much more closing, they close the door to opportunity. They get more right-wing.
Olbermann took up the point of prejudice and wondered to black religious leader T. D. Jakes about whether the daily presence of President Obama might eradicate whatever racism whites still carry. But he said it clumsily, implying that McCain's supporters were still full of prejudice:
An excellent point, Bishop Jakes, about Senator McCain's speech, which really will echo I think in many corridors, even if the immediate reaction is not what it might have been in Phoenix tonight. A lot of disappointment, and a lot of fear and a lot of prejudice is still there. This is what I wanted to ask you about.
I would imagine you know the ins and outs of this subject far better than I do. But it has seemed to me that every study that's ever been made about prejudice between groups of people, and it doesn’t matter if we’re talking racial or religious or ethnic or societal or any kind of other differences between people, when you personally know someone of the so-called other group, your likelihood to be prejudiced or doubtful of them seems to drop from about 90 percent to about 10 percent.
In some respects, a president-elect, soon we expect to be the president of the United States, is almost a figure in the family of everybody in the country, almost as well known as some at least distant relative. Will this have a material impact in knocking down what remains of prejudice in this country?
Jakes naturally replied, "You know, we all hope so and we aspire so."