â€˜IF THERE is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible,
who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time, who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer,â€ President-elect Barack Obama told his vast audience in Grant Park, Chicago, on Tuesday night.
â€œItâ€™s the answer told by lines that stretched around schools and churches in numbers this nation has never seen, by people who waited three hours and four hours, many for the first time in their lives, because they believed that this time must be different, that their voices could be that difference.
â€œItâ€™s the answer spoken by young and old, rich and poor, Democrat and Republican, black, white, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, gay, straight, disabled and not disabled. Americans who sent a message to the world that we have never been just a collection of individuals or a collection of red states and blue states,â€ a reference to the electoral map that saw him and his (blue) Democratic party romp home to an unambiguous victory.
â€œItâ€™s been a long time coming, but tonight, because of what we did on this date in this election at this defining moment change has come to America.â€
Obama has, rather like our own election verdict in March, broken the mould. He has shown that an African-American president can be the choice of all Americans.
John McCain, in his speech in Arizona, made reference to Theodore Rooseveltâ€™s invitation to the great educationalist Booker T Washington to dine at the White House a century ago and the outrage that caused. African-Americans today, he observed, must be experiencing a great sense of pride and satisfaction over the outcome.
Obamaâ€™s rollcall of diverse minorities together forging the majority he now presides over was emblematic of his compaign. It was this inclusivist approach that has done so much to advance his cause. He didnâ€™t pose as the standard bearer of any particular group, instead making it clear that he stood for all constituencies and for all people.
By striking this note he was able to capture states that had been solidly Republican for 40 years but favoured change. To the Democratsâ€™ traditional support base among the teeming â€œblueâ€ states of the north-east and organised labour, he recruited a middle class instinctively conservative but prepared to change the voting habits of a lifetime.
To his banner fell Virginia, Ohio, Indiana and Florida, states that George Bush scooped up in 2000 and 2004.
In the face of this burgeoning army, the bullying religious right evaporated like a paper tiger, abandoned even by McCain.
McCain failed the one last chance he had â€“â€“ in the television debates. Like Nixon in 1960 his inability to make a decisive impact in millions of homes across America lost him the election. A war hero who tried to exploit his opponentâ€™s inexperience, McCain failed to land the punch that mattered. A nation weary of the Iraq morass declined to get fired up by his â€œexpertiseâ€.
What significance, if any, does this hold for Zimbabwe? Firstly, it deprives the bigots in power of the race card they depend upon for so much of their fulminating. Obama is so obviously his own man and can hardly be portrayed as a creature of Wall St which has felt the fire of his campaign.
The outcome was a complete repudiation of the Bush presidency just as ours was a repudiation of Mugabe and everything he stood for in March.
Bush was beholden to the powerful oil lobby, personified by Dick Cheney. Obama is keen to shake things up across the board â€“â€“ and in the boardrooms.
Zimbabwe will find a formidable critic in the White House. There will be no reprieve for the targets of Washingtonâ€™s sanctions so long as Zanu PFâ€™s misrule persists. Obama is an inspiration to Africa, Zimbabweâ€™s rulers a disgrace.
And whereas Bush was content to leave matters in the hands of his point man, Thabo Mbeki, Obama will be keen to speak out on the consequences of repression and dictatorship.
But first Obama will want to tackle the economy. The financial crisis empowered Obama just as it disabled McCain. But Obama was headed for victory in the first place. Now he will have to demonstrate every political skill he has in managing the crisis on Main St and fashioning a consensus on the change he spoke so eloquently about.