To tens of millions of Americans, today's inauguration of a new American president is the end to a national nightmare; one of the most unpopular presidencies in US history.
Barack Obama's presidency, that begins today, should and will be held as a unique event. One that stands on its own. But many have noted as well that President Obama is the legacy of former president George W. Bush. As fate would have it, that presidential legacy began in Florida.
I wouldn't begin to know, how to total the number of Floridians who understood the consequences of a Bush victory in 2000, who committed their time and energy as activists to the Gore campaign and, importantly, began on November 5th to fight for a fair and equitable process to recount the contested ballots. Is it a few dozen? A few hundred? Few, in the media, have looked backward along this particular railway track. There is not a single word in today's edition of The Miami Herald, for instance, on this passage through darkness to light. Whatever their number, they are the unforgotten.
As Barack Obama's hand rests on Lincoln's bible, his hand will stop up an equally historic pain. The trauma began at dawn of November 5th, 2000. Leading to that day, candidate Al Gore did not have Clinton's help in Florida, and in key respects sailed with faulty GPS coordinates on a political map. The trauma bled out the following month with a botched recount, steered in important respects by the president's brother, then Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. The worst happened in Miami, where youthful Republican partisans pretending to be aggrieved locals parachuted in to protest the Miami-Dade recount. At the moment of crisis, key Democrats like then-mayor Alex Penelas disappeared like smoke, for reasons of their own, helping send the election to be settled by the US Supreme Court.
History matters. Every eloquent speech of president-elect Obama this week has drawn attention to this fact. To those Floridians, then, who understood the stakes and what consequences would befall the nation in terms of balance, equity, and the protection of democracy; to those Floridians who lived with the results along with the rest of the world-- today's presidential inauguration of Barack Obama represents the first moment of relief in more than eight years. But there is a cautionary note, always.
Only people who have studied history understand: we hope for change but we learn from the past. From Miami, we know how bittersweet that knowledge can be.