Congratulations to our friend and colleague, Barack Obama, on his election. Some thoughts and reflected glory can be found at http://www.law.uchicago.edu/news/obamaelected/index.html and http://www.uchicago.edu/features/20081105_election.shtml.
In true Chicago style, we will no doubt soon begin criticizing and second-guessing, but for just a day or two it seems appropriate to enjoy the frenzy, the obvious elation of a new generation of students, and the remarkable talents of a neighbor and member of our community.
Politics is a field where path dependence is obvious to everyone. If Bush had lost in 2004, Obama would be a "mere" senator. If the timing of the financial crisis had been different, if the sitting President had been more popular, if McCain had been of a different age, if he had selected a different running mate, or if he had been governed by a different system of campaign finance (or Obama had accepted public financing and its constraints), the outcome might have been different. When an election is not close, it is unlikely that any one thing caused the outcome, and so it is especially hard to know which of these variables played important roles. Somewhat similarly, events in the next year or two will not all be caused by President Obama's decisions, but many will be influenced by them. We wish him good luck in things within and beyond his control, even as we know that luck is the wrong word. To a degree, these wishes are self-serving, not only because we are fellow citizens but also because success will likely be perceived as indicating positive things about an elite education and even about our Law School in particular.