I’m a registered Republican and will probably vote for McCain in November. Even so, yesterday seems to me one of the great days in American history. And it’s a great day in part because it all seems so ordinary: two candidates battled for a major-party nomination, and one of them came out on top, barely. That has happened before (mostly in Republican races—since, for most of its history, the Democratic Party required that its presidential nominees win two-thirds of all delegate votes, not a simple majority). But this time, the candidate who came out on top is a black man, and that hasn’t happened before.
I remember when Doug Wilder was inaugurated Virginia’s governor in January 1990: the first elected black governor in American history, inaugurated in the city that once served as the capital of a nation founded to preserve black slavery. Former Supreme Court Justice Lewis Powell, scion of Richmond’s white establishment, administered the oath of office. When Wilder had taken that oath, Powell leaned into the microphone and said: “It’s a great day for Virginia.” It was. Just as yesterday was a great day for the United States.