Others tonight will write eloquently about the historic nature of Barack Obama's incredible victory. As many others do, I feel as if our country has been reclaimed after suffering eight years of despair. We have vanquished an occupying force of oppression and retaken possession of our rightful territory. The country and the world will rejoice, for we have embarked on a new path of transparency, honesty and integrity.
But in the midst of this celebration, I still fear for our republic. While Obama's election demonstrates the absolute best of our democracy, we should not ignore a more ominous truth. Nearly half of the American electorate believed that Sarah Palin was qualified to lead our nation as president. That is a sign of a nation at risk.
My opposition to John McCain was based on a philosophical difference about governance, and based on specific disagreements with his policies on war, energy, environment and economics. But Senator McCain was a legitimate candidate for the office of the president. He is a war hero and a long-standing member of the United States Senate. He clearly has the qualities one looks for in a president, even if I believed he would take us dangerously in the wrong direction. That is the purpose of elections, to allow voters to choose between different visions for the future.
Governor Palin is an entirely different matter. We have to question the judgment of anyone who could conclude that Palin is qualified to president. She is no more qualified to be leader of the free world than is the mayor of Austin, Texas, which has a population as big as her state. Imagine the mayor of Austin as president, fighting the war on terror, righting our listing economy. Palin has no more claim to legitimacy. Let us be honest: Palin's candidacy was a sick joke. McCain chose her to win an election by exciting the right-wing base but in doing so put our country in peril. The greatest danger, though, is the inability of half of our voters to make reasoned decisions about our leaders. A democracy can only survive with an educated electorate, and we now have to wonder if 50% are no longer qualified.
History will show that Palin's nomination was an abomination, an affront to reason, and an insult to the American people. Once the adrenalin of the campaign had dissipated from the American bloodstream, once we have transitioned to the calm reason of an Obama presidency, we will be embarrassed by her candidacy. I can only hope that those who voted for Palin will recognize the error of that support, so that such a dangerous mistake is not made again. If not, if fully half of the American people persist in the belief that Palin was a legitimate choice, then this country is in trouble, even considering the historic victory we celebrate tonight.