Editorial: Progress Made This Election Must Continue

This story was written by Editorial Board,
The world as we knew it yesterday has changed.

We know that we'll have a new president come January, but sitting here a few hours before the polls close, we're thinking what this election means for the country in a historical sense. In some ways, it matters less at the moment who won rather than who ran.

The selection of Barack Obama to be the Democratic candidate has been a monumental triumph for a nation whose history is irrevocably scarred by slavery and racial discrimination. That an African-American could be chosen as president of the United States gives new meaning to the title of "Leader of the Free World."

But Obama was not the only one to break down barriers this cycle. For the first time in this nation's history, a woman had a viable chance of being elected president. Following in the steps of Geraldine Ferraro, Hillary Clinton put 18 million cracks in the highest glass ceiling in her campaign for the Democratic nomination.

And that wasn't the last boundary crossed this cycle. For the first time, the Republican Party put a woman on its presidential ticket when John McCain chose Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin to be his running mate.

History has been made no matter which party won the White House. It's a testament to the progress that this country has made in overcoming prejudice and bias. But by no means will the problems women and minorities continue to face go away over night.

Today we'll start hearing about prospects for midterm elections in 2010 and even 2012. In news cycle terms, it's a lifetime away. But in political terms, it's right around the corner. After all the progress we've made this cycle, we have to ask ourselves if it's going to continue.

We have a responsibility to make sure that this country doesn't rest on its laurels. A self-congratulatory pat on the back may be fine for a day or so, but it's not a long-term solution to make sure that everyone's interests are fairly represented as our nation becomes more diverse. This country needs to keep moving forward by encouraging more women and more minorities to run for higher office.

If we can do so, we will cement this country's reputation as the land of opportunity, no matter your race, gender or background. If this has been an election about ideas, then the concept of equality of opportunity must be paramount. We can be sure that somebody won and somebody lost Tuesday, but the more important contest will be fought in the coming years. And everybody should be involved.