The history books are being updated. A black man and a woman have
reached new electoral heights in the nation. And an unpopular
conservative Republican has grabbed the party’s nomination for
president, in spite of the party’s bristling resistance to him.

Where to begin….?

I’ve been in Europe for the past week and a half, and it’s been a
good break from these contentious times. Got back just in time for the
final primary, pivotal as it turns out, for the Democratic party and
the Republican nominee’s chance to distinguish himself. Here are some
notes from the dramatic day…

The final days formed ‘the perfect storm’ – after the weekend’s
raucous meeting of the DNC leadership trying to find unity in a glaring
show of chaos, a black man and a white woman fought vigorously for the
fractured Democratic party’s nomination with so much controversy, it
derailed the message of what they most represented in ideology.

Today ended five months of primaries and began five month
of campaigning for the general elections. It ended in speeches by the
three major presidential candidates.

Sen. John McCain went first. What timing. It was the worst speech
I’ve seen of his entire campaign. The transcript of his speech probably
sounds a lot better than its delivery, it was so lethargic and
plodding. If he couldn’t deliver fire from the belly, he should have
waited until after the Democrats celebrated their night before
launching the big run.

The New York Times enjoyed citing the National Review Online sharing its dismay over McCain’s bad showing.

Senator Barack Obama claimed the Democratic presidential
nomination on Tuesday night, prevailing through an epic battle with
Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton in a primary campaign that inspired
millions of voters from every corner of America to demand change in
Washington.

A last-minute rush of Democratic superdelegates, as well as split
results from the final primaries in Montana and South Dakota, pushed
Mr. Obama over the threshold of 2,118 delegates needed to be nominated
at the party’s convention in Denver in August. The victory for Mr.
Obama, the son of a black Kenyan father and white Kansan mother, broke
racial barriers and represented a remarkable rise for a man who just
four years ago served in the Illinois State Senate.

“You chose to listen not to your doubts or your fears, but to your
greatest hopes and highest aspirations,” Mr. Obama told supporters at a
rally in St. Paul. “Tonight, we mark the end of one historic journey
with the beginning of another — a journey that will bring a new and
better day to America. Because of you, tonight, I can stand before you
and say that I will be the Democratic nominee for president of the
United States.”

Why did Obama deliver his victory speech in St. Paul? That’s the location of the Republican convention this summer.

And another question. Since Obama is seen as the first black
presidential candidate, why hasn’t he been referring to his white
heritage? He was raised by his white mother and white grandparents in
Hawaii, but in his speech he referred only to his white grandmother who
is “somewhere in Hawaii”, leaving the listener to wonder whether he
knows where she is, or is just leaving that off the record. This man
truly represents both races. Why has he come so far by embracing
African-American history when he grew up knowing so little of it? Just
asking…

Here’s one of thousands of reports.

Senator Barack Obama claimed the Democratic presidential
nomination on Tuesday night, prevailing through an epic battle with
Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton in a primary campaign that inspired
millions of voters from every corner of America to demand change in
Washington.

A last-minute rush of Democratic superdelegates, as well as split
results from the final primaries in Montana and South Dakota, pushed
Mr. Obama over the threshold of 2,118 delegates needed to be nominated
at the party’s convention in Denver in August. The victory for Mr.
Obama, the son of a black Kenyan father and white Kansan mother, broke
racial barriers and represented a remarkable rise for a man who just
four years ago served in the Illinois State Senate.

“You chose to listen not to your doubts or your fears, but to your
greatest hopes and highest aspirations,” Mr. Obama told supporters at a
rally in St. Paul. “Tonight, we mark the end of one historic journey
with the beginning of another — a journey that will bring a new and
better day to America. Because of you, tonight, I can stand before you
and say that I will be the Democratic nominee for president of the
United States.”

Then came Sen. Hillary Clinton, who stole the thunder of the day by leaking the message that she would be open to the number two spot on the ticket.

Mrs. Clinton paid tribute to Mr. Obama, but she did not
leave the race. “This has been a long campaign and I will be making no
decisions tonight,” Mrs. Clinton told supporters in New York. She said
she would be speaking with party officials about her next move.

In a combative speech, she again presented her case that she was the
stronger candidate and argued that she had won the popular vote, a
notion disputed by the Obama campaign.

“I want the 18 million Americans who voted for me to be respected,” she said in New York to loud cheers.

Let the general election begin.

It took Christopher Columbus about 70 days to get to the
New World – a bit less than half as long as it took Americans to get
through the 2008 primary calendar. Now that we have reached our
destination, people in the Obama and McCain camps are feeling good
about themselves.

Neither campaign is planning a major pivot for the fall. Both are confident they have a strategy for victory.

The Associated Press says “let the games begin”, but aren’t they only continuing?

It takes 270 electoral votes to win the White House, and
competition likely will be the most fierce in some 14 battleground
states. Both candidates will fight to defend states their parties won
four years ago. McCain also will make a play for Democratic-held states
in the Great Lakes region, while Obama hopes to crack the GOP bastion
of the South.

The campaign is the first in half a century in which neither a
sitting president nor a vice president is running for the highest
office, and the first since 1960 in which a senator will assume the
White House. McCain, a four-term Arizona senator, is a longtime
Republican Party agitator. Obama, the first-term Illinois senator, is
the Democratic Party’s newfound star.

By just about every measure, the gulf between the two is wide.

Philosophically, the country will get either one extreme or the other in the conservative McCain or the liberal Obama.

Let the contest begin, about the battle of ideas and the contest of leadership.

Sheila Liaugminas

Sheila Liaugminas is an Emmy award-winning Chicago-based journalist in print and broadcast media. Her writing and broadcasting covers matters of faith, culture, politics and the media....