This changes everything I know about democracy. It does not seem to be anymore a matter of being charming enough to convince the majority. Rather, it seems to be a matter of having a big enough minority behind you to convince the overwhelmingly unconvinced. That’s how Barack Obama won Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Florida, and even Indiana. He didn’t spend so much time there. He couldn’t have. But his minority army did, and they took long.
But not only. Obama’s victory changes democracy by solving one of its most accruciating problems: ignorance. As I said before, democracy does not work if your electorate is not well informed. I used to think of intellectual undernourishment, but I’ve learned a lot from this campaign. Academic maturation is generally good, but unnecessary. All that’s needed, all this campaign needed, was informational noursihing. How did the Obama campaign manage to overcome decades of ignorance and misinformation? The task was unsurmountable. If we look at it from a few years perspective, completely impossible. But the world has changed: internet is all over the place. Back in 2004 only 40% of americans had broadband. Now, as the Obama victory testifies, they are a majority. This is perhaps one of the most important political virtues of the Obama campaign: it’s management of internet resources. That’s how they built their army, how they convinced the unconvinced, and how they managed to overcome one of the most powerful obstacles among human beings: discrimination.
Which takes me to the moral side of this. Almost a year ago I ended up teaching a course on sexism, racism, women’s rights, affirmative action and other contemporary problems. Most of my students where european american who didn’t believe there was racism in America. The few african americans couldn’t believe their classmates’ disbelief. And I couldn’t believe how uncritical, biased, and dumb a misinformed human being could look like. Yet I learned with my students. I had a better idea of what the sources of discrimination were, a better idea of what was hurting me so much of this country. This victory is not so much a lesson on the strengths of an internet-based-brilliant campaign, but on the ability of individuals to overcome their prejudices when properly informed. That, I believe, is more than just an awe inspiring result. It’s beautiful!
Barack Obama just won the presidency of the most powerful nation on Earth. He was educated in Harvard, the most powerful academic institution on Earth. He raised more than 600 million dollars for his campaign, more than both Kerry and Bush together four years ago. The wealthiest campaign in the history of the US. And he happens to be an african american. The most amazing thing here is not his demolition of the so called racial barrier, but they way he did it. He achieved all this and all he did was his homework. This personal lesson reaches every corner. Everyone undergoes her own pesonal battle. Do whatever you have to do and, most importantly, don’t give up. It is not enough just to have the will, nor to only act upon it. We need more: tenacity. Or as Churchill used to say, “if you’re going through hell, keep going.”
May I conclude by quoting today’s New York Times: