Is Obama ready to become America’s first black president?

Howard Fineman writes: President Barack Obama did not just win reelection tonight. His victory signaled the irreversible triumph of a new, 21st-century America: multiracial, multi-ethnic, global in outlook and moving beyond centuries of racial, sexual, marital and religious tradition.

Obama, the mixed-race son of Hawaii by way of Kansas, Indonesia, Los Angeles, New York and Chicago, won reelection in good part because he not only embodied but spoke to that New America, as did the Democratic Party he leads. His victorious coalition spoke for and about him: a good share of the white vote (about 45 percent in Ohio, for example); 70 percent or so of the Latino vote across the country, according to experts; 96 percent of the African-American vote; and large proportions of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.

The Republican Party, by contrast, has been reduced to a rump parliament of Caucasian traditionalism: white, married, church-going — to oversimplify only slightly. “It’s a catastrophe,” said GOP strategist Steve Schmidt. “This is, this will have to be, the last time that the Republican Party tries to win this way.”

The GOP chose as its standard-bearer Mitt Romney, whose own Mormon Church until recent decades discriminated officially against blacks. His campaign made little serious effort to reach out to Hispanics voters, and Romney hurt himself by taking far-right positions on immigration during the GOP primaries. He made no effort whatsoever in the black community.

Obama reached out not only racially and ethnically, but in terms of lifestyle. Analysts made fun of, and Republicans derided, his campaign’s focus on discrete demographic and social slices of the electorate, including gays and lesbians. But the message was one about the future, not the American past.

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