Sen. Barack Obama became the 44th President of the United States last night, defeating Sen. John McCain and securing his place in history as the first African-American to be elected president.
Obama scored the most decisive victory in a presidential election since 1996, winning large states such as New York, California, Florida and Pennsylvania, as well as traditional Republican strongholds like North Carolina and Virginia. He was also able to win seven states current president, George W. Bush, won in the 2004 election.
As of 3 a.m. and with the projected winner in three states yet to be announced, Obama lead McCain in electoral votes 338 to 163.
“Tonight, because of what we did on this day, in this election, at this defining moment, change has come to America,” said Obama in his acceptance speech before thousands of cheering supporters in Chicago’s Grant Park.
Moments earlier, McCain had conceded the election in front of a crowd of his own supporters in Phoenix.
“Sen. Obama has achieved a great thing for himself and for his country,” he said, emphasizing the historical nature of this year’s election. McCain also urged those who campaigned and voted for him to give their full support to President-Elect Obama.
College Democrats President Nick Roloson reiterated this message in describing what Obama’s election means for the United States.
“We have our first African-American president, which is huge for the civil rights movement and the African-American community,” he said.
Roloson added that he thought Obama’s ideological standing also makes him unique among US presidents.
“It’s interesting to see how now we’ve shifted from one of the most conservative presidents we’ve ever had to potentially looking at one of the most liberal presidents we’ve ever had,” he said. “It’ll be very interesting to see what kind of reforms President Obama will bring.”
James Pickel, President of College Republicans, was wary of what those potential liberal reforms might mean for the future of the country.
“I think we’re going to see this affect every issue severely,” he said. “I think [Obama’s] going to change the fabric of America, and that’s what scares me.”
Pickel mentioned abortion as an issue that is of particular concern to him in light of the incoming Obama administration. He explained that he feels Obama lacks a dedication to a “culture of life.”
“The economy will get better, wars will end, but we may come back to a country that’s lost its moral and ethical values,” he said.
Dr. Robert Pecorella, a St. John’s professor of Government and Politics, agreed that the ideological shift from Bush to Obama could have a major impact on the nation.
“I think it’s potentially huge, and I don’t say that about every election,” he said.
Pecorella, who said he has been following politics for nearly 50 years, explained that the “Reagan Era,” a period of political conservatism and Republican dominance, could be coming to an end.
“We may very well have seen the end of that [last night], and the beginning of what may be known in the future as the ‘Obama Era’,” he said.
Obama’s decisive victory was bolstered by the fact that the Democrats will control at least 56, and possibly as many as 60, of the 100 seats in the Senate. 60 seats would allow the Democrats to override Republican filibusters, but even a lesser majority, combined with a Democratic White House, would give the party power unseen in recent years.
St. John’s students were able to watch the CNN broadcast of the election results in Council Hall as part of the “Participate in ’08” program sponsored by the College Republicans, the College Democrats and Student Government Inc.
Brian Browne, Assistant Vice President of Government Relations, said each group played a big part in the event’s success.”It was really a team effort,” he said. Browne added that the ultimate goal of Participate in ’08 was to develop St. John’s students into politically minded citizens.”Hopefully, if we get people involved in the process early, they’ll stay involved,” he said.
After a turnout of about 50 students for the majority of the coverage, the room was filled with several hundred students for Obama’s victory speech. The students had previously congregated in front of St. Augustine Hall to celebrate the Illinois senator’s win after it was announced that he was projected to win California’s 55 electoral votes, putting his total over the 270 required to win the election.
Sophomore Conner Pieddan said he feels Obama will lead the country, and young people in particular, to “a new level of morale and participation.”
“Barack is our JFK,” he said.
Pecorella said he has noticed an increase in student interest throughout the election.
“I’ve been associated with St. John’s for about 40 years and this is the most politically involved I’ve ever seen students,” he said.