By Gail Collins
The New York Times
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We are only thinking cheerful thoughts today, people. America did good. Enjoy.
Even if you voted for John McCain, be happy. You've got the best of all worlds. Today, you can bask in the realization that there are billions of people around the planet who loathed our country last week but are now in awe of its capacity to rise above historic fears and prejudices, that once again, the United States will have a president the world wants to follow.
Then later, when things get screwed up, you can point out that it's not your fault.
About the inevitable disasters: I am sorry to tell you, excited youth of America, that Barack Obama is going to make mistakes. And the country's broke. Perhaps we should have mentioned this before. But let's leave all that to 2009. When somebody runs one of the best presidential campaigns ever, he deserves a little time to enjoy the sweet spot between achievement of a goal and the arrival of the consequences.
Let's hear it for the voters. Good turnout, guys — especially you Virginians who stood in line for seven hours. A professor at George Mason University who studies this sort of thing claims that there hasn't been such a high participation level since 1908. That could turn out to be the ever-elusive answer to the question: "Name one thing that Barack Obama has in common with William Howard Taft?"
Let's hear it for Hillary Clinton, who lost but made the country comfortable with the idea of a woman as chief executive. And Joe Biden, who actually ran a disciplined campaign, given his truly exceptional capacity to say weird things.
And let's give a shout-out to McCain. As desperate as he was, he still passed up opportunities to poke hard at the nation's fault lines of race, religion and region — although he has probably created a permanent gap between the rest of us and segments of the country who feel under imminent threat from Bill Ayers.
McCain ran a dreadful campaign, but it's over. Give the guy a break. He was stuck with President Bush. And the Republican Party. And the fact that he was constitutionally incapable of giving a decent speech.
The road was hard, but McCain soldiered on and did a lovely concession Tuesday night. Kudos.
Sarah Palin did go over the top with her small towns versus the world mantra. However, she does get credit for giving us a real understanding of the difference between a moose and a caribou.
OK, there is nothing positive to say about Palin. And Alaska, are you re-electing Sen. Ted Stevens? What's going on there? Did you actually believe him when he said that the court verdict was still up in the air? On the day after he was found guilty?
By the way, if Stevens does win, it will be with about 106,000 votes. In total. There are more people than that in my immediate neighborhood. What kind of state is this, anyway?
But we're in a good mood, so let's forget Alaska. Instead, we'll contemplate the fact that North Carolina tossed Elizabeth Dole out of office despite her ad campaign aimed at convincing the state that her opponent, Kay Hagan, is an atheist. This was accomplished, you may remember, through the creative strategy of showing Hagan's picture along with another woman's voice saying: "There is no God!" If Dole had won, by the next election we would have been bombarded with ads that appeared to show candidates saying "I support adultery!" or "Let's kill the puppies!" Now that won't happen. Thank you, North Carolina.
By the way, I believe that during the campaign McCain's great friend Sen. Lindsey Graham said something along the line of promising to drown himself if North Carolina went for Obama. I believe I speak for us all, Senator Graham, when I say that we are feeling extremely mellow today and that you do not have to follow through.
Congratulations to Sen. Susan Collins on her re-election. The entire moderate Republican caucus in the Senate may now wind up consisting of women from Maine. As Maine goes, so go the Supreme Court nominations.
Finally, on behalf of the baby-boom generation, I would like to hear a little round of applause before we cede the stage to the people who were too young to go to Woodstock and would appreciate not having to listen to the stories about it anymore. It looks as though we will be represented in history by only two presidents, one of whom is George W. Bush. Bummer.
The boomers didn't win any wars, and that business about being self-involved was not entirely unfounded. On the other hand, they made the nation get serious about the idea of everybody being created equal. And now American children are going to grow up unaware that there's anything novel in an African-American president or a woman running for the White House.
We'll settle for that.