A healing this nation has needed for more than two centuries has just occurred, and like many of the people around me this past evening, I’ve found my eyes periodically filling with tears of happiness.

In West Marin, Barack Obama picks up 86 percent of the vote on his way to winning the presidency. Tuesday night in Point Reyes Station, a crowd at Café Reyes joins in as televised crowds of Obama supporters elsewhere cheer state-by-state election returns.

Back in the 1960s, I tried to do what I could for the Civil Rights Movement, assisting with a Civil Rights broadcast on KZSU, Stanford University’s radio station; taking part in a drive to register black voters in Leesburg, Florida, when it was still mostly segregated; and serving as faculty advisor to Upper Iowa College’s black-student union, the Brotherhood. In those days, this country’s racial divisions loomed so large I would never have imagined that within 40 years the United States would elect a black president. But Tuesday we did.

225px-barack_obama.jpgYet it is noteworthy that most Americans did not vote for Obama for the sake of electing a black president.

In exit polls, almost two thirds of Tuesday’s voters said their biggest concern was the US economic recession, and a majority thought Obama could cope with it better than Republican John McCain. In short, voters were more concerned with economics than with race, and that simple fact is a wonderful indication of our country’s having matured.

Exit polls found that overall a majority of whites, blacks, and Latinos favored Obama, but unlike white women, less than half of white men, 43 percent, preferred Obama. That statistic has been used to imply that many white men couldn’t overlook Obama’s being black.

In fact, it shows just the opposite. Democratic candidates for president seldom do as well as Republican candidates among white men. President Bill Clinton, for example, won only 39 percent of the the white male vote in 1992 and 43 percent in 1996. Obviously, Obama’s race didn’t hurt him among white male voters.

Tuesday’s election, of course, wasn’t all about race and economics. The United States is currently fighting wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Its international reputation has been shredded by the outrages at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay. And its healthcare system is causing suffering for many Americans.

For a president of any race to take all this on would be an enormous challenge, but at least Obama begins with a mandate from his countrymen and the blessings of the rest of the world. While voters didn’t elect Obama primarily to restore America’s reputation abroad, that could be the election’s most-immediate effect, as news reports from around the globe confirm.

100_0814.jpg Watching television — Tuesday night‘s crowd at Café Reyes eagerly waits for the networks to declare Obama the winner, which occurs at 8 p.m. sharp, an hour after the polls close in Point Reyes Station.

Here are the results of local votes on the West Marin ballot (winners in boldface):

Congress: Democratic incumbent Lynn Woolsey, 73 percent; Republican Mike Halliwell, 23 percent. (Woolsey at the same time beat Halliwell 71 percent to 25 percent in Sonoma County.)

State Senate: Democrat Mark Leno, 75 percent; Republican Sashi McEntee, 24 percent. (Leno also bested McEntee 71 percent to 29 percent in Sonoma County and 87 percent to 13 percent in San Francisco.)

Assembly: Democratic incumbent Jared Huffman, 72 percent; Republican Paul Lavery, 23 percent. (Huffman likewise topped Lavery 66 percent to 26 percent in Sonoma County.)

Bolinas Fire Protection District: incumbent David Kimball, 40 percent; Sheila O’Donnell, 27 percent; Shannon Kilkenny, 24 percent; Donald Holmes, 8 percent.

Marin Healthcare District: incumbent Sharon Jackson, 30 percent; Hank Simmonds, 24 percent; Archimedes Ramirez, 23 percent; Frank Parnell, 21 percent; Peter Romanowsky, 2 percent.

Measure Q (Sonoma-Marin rail district, combined two-thirds vote needed): Marin County, 63 percent yes, 37 percent no; Sonoma County, 73.5 percent yes, 26.5 percent no.