Somewhat surprisingly, TIME writer David Von Drehle doesn't dwell on the historic signficance of Obama's election, instead citing Obama's competence as the main reason for the choice. But I think he's absolutely right in reading the national mood: we elected Obama above all because we believe he can get things done, with the symbolism coming in second place.
Some highlights from the article:
In the waning days of his extraordinary year and on the cusp of his presidency, what now seems most salient about Obama is the opposite of flashy, the antithesis of rhetoric: he gets things done. He is a man about his business — a Mr. Fix It going to Washington. That's why he's here and why he doesn't care about the furniture.
Obama is quoted as saying one of his goals is the following:
"Outside of specific policy measures, two years from now, I want the American people to be able to say, 'Government's not perfect; there are some things Obama does that get on my nerves. But you know what? I feel like the government's working for me. I feel like it's accountable. I feel like it's transparent. I feel that I am well informed about what government actions are being taken. I feel that this is a President and an Administration that admits when it makes mistakes and adapts itself to new information.'"(Excuse me while I stand up and cheer for that one. How completely opposite is that from the Bush administration?)
The country had to be hungry for the menu he offered, and in that sense, his path's true beginning lay in the drowned precincts of New Orleans in the sweltering, desperate late summer of 2005...Spare us the dead-or-alive bravado, the gates-of-hell bluster, the melodrama of the 3 a.m. phone call. A door swung open for a candidate who would merely stand and deliver. Simple competence — although there's nothing simple about it, not in today's intricate, interdependent, interwoven, intensely dangerous world.
His arrival on the scene feels like a step into the next century — his genome is global, his mind is innovative, his world is networked, and his spirit is democratic. Perhaps it takes a new face to see the promise in a future that now looks dark.