Every presidential campaign is unique: the candidates, the political environment, and historical shifts are always different. Some seem to just follow the flow of their times. Other elections change history. Richard Reeves, who is one of the most insightful political writers around, suggests this year’s election might well be one the fifth pivot election in the nation’s history. This would place the importance of this Tuesday’s election alongside Thomas Jefferson’s victory over John Adams, Abraham Lincoln’s win over Stephen Douglas, Breckinridge, Franklin Roosevelt’s defeat of Herbert Hoover, and Ronald Reagan’s triumph over Jimmy Carter. All changed the direction of the country, establishing a new center of gravity for the nation’s politics.
Whether the presidential contest between Senators John McCain and Barack Obama belongs in this company or not will be determined by history. It’s hard to remember after the two year forced march the nation has taken to choose a new president, but winning on election night is only the beginning. The triumphant candidate has to actually govern. Whether their legacy places the nation on a new path or is merely a bump in the road we’re already on won’t be known for years.
As Mr. Reeves notes, Senator Obama and his campaign have fashioned a unique coalition of voters this year. Whether they will influence future elections remains to be seen. If he can solidify his followers into a long-term political majority, Senator Obama may well have pivoted the nation in a new direction.