Following Obama's victory last night, a conservative analyst on CNN made the joking comment that we should remember that this happened on Bush's watch. The comment struck me at the time and on reflection strikes me even more as one of the more profound observations about this election.
It took a Republican, Richard Nixon, to overcome years of Cold War fear to open doors to a relationship with China. It took a Republican former prisoner of war, John McCain, working with a Democrat veteran, John Kerry, to reopen our relations with Vietnam. With minorities, I believe that Bush has done something similar.
For all the problems I have had with Bush's politics over the last eight years, it was always apparent that he valued and sought out ethnic/racial diversity in his administration. I suspect that Evangelicals, who in my personal experience have been similarly welcoming to all, may have helped form Bush's own attitudes in this regard. By appointing strong competent leaders such as Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice, who also happened to be black, I believe that George Bush helped pave the way for a candidate such as Barack Obama to run as a Presidential candidate who also happened to be black. While Obama's election depended on overwhelming majorities among minority voters, it is important to note that a larger proportion of white voters voted for Obama in this election than has voted for any other Democratic Presidential candidate in recent elections. Without this support from white voters, he would not have been elected.
While this may not be the result that Bush would have preferred, Bush has helped to bring the country a long way since the Republican party first decided to exploit racial fears to build its Republican base. For his part in helping to move us towards what some are now calling a post-racial society, I am grateful to GWB.