Sen. Barack Obama's victory will keep historians busy for centuries.
We needn't await their verdict, though, to savor this extraordinary moment in the life of an extraordinary nation.
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The election of the first black president shows, for one thing, that the United States is still moving toward the ideals of equality and human dignity on which it was founded 232 years ago.
No matter how you voted, that's something to celebrate.
But winning this historic election will seem like a piece of cake compared with the challenges awaiting Obama when he takes office.
This country is in a mess.
Eight years of socialism for the rich and waging war on a credit card have accomplished what Osama bin Laden and his suicidal posse could not: The U.S. economy is in shambles, and the country's infrastructure and self-confidence in disrepair.
After 9/11 President Bush told us to shop. He attacked Iraq while cutting the taxes that should have paid for the war. Instead, the war costs have been passed on to our children and grandchildren.
The whole country, from the federal government on down, has been on a borrowing binge. And now the market must extract the sacrifices that Bush never asked of Americans.
It's a hard time to be president, especially when you promised change but will need the public's patience to dig out of a deep and slippery hole.
The new president will inherit a government that's been dismantled and corrupted and that serves corporations, not workers or consumers; the pharmaceutical industry, not patients; big-time swindlers, not honest small businesses; the oil industry, not the public's long-term good; and the despoilers, not healthy air, land and water.
The new president will have to basically rebuild the federal government, while overseeing an orderly end to U.S. occupation of Iraq.
And then there are the huge problems that have been ignored — climate change and energy independence are at the top of the list — that can't wait much longer for some presidential attention.
Obama put together a pioneering campaign that employed the Internet to mobilize a grass-roots movement.
He recognized early on that Americans want a new direction. He inspired millions with his message of unity and change.
The president-elect will need that kind of innovation and creativity, along with all of his political gifts and talents as a leader, to pull this country out of its many crises.