On Tuesday, Nov. 4, the nation’s major polling agencies were vindicated. Two of the most reliable polls, the Gallup and the Rasmussen, were almost spot-on with their predictions for the presidential election’s outcome. The final Gallup Daily poll among likely voters had Obama leading 53-42 percent and the final Rasmussen poll had Obama ahead 52-46 percent. Obama ended up winning the popular vote 53-46 percent.

In the months leading up to the election, some media pundits were predicting that the so-called “Bradley Effect” would render the polls inaccurate. They purported that a large group of Americans would be unwilling to vote for a black candidate, even if they agreed with him on most of the issues. Chris Matthews and a host of other talking heads had suggested that Obama needed to lead McCain by as many as eight points in the polls to finish tied in the popular vote.

They were wrong. And they owe an apology to the American people. The polls were accurate, Americans were not lying about how they planned to vote and Americans were not afraid to elect a black candidate to the most powerful office in the country. This achievement should be celebrated, regardless of one’s political affiliation. It is good to know that Americans vote based on their beliefs and concerns and that race is not an issue.

Even those who did not vote for Obama voted for a candidate who came from a historically underrepresented group: women. Sarah Palin’s gender was of no consequence to the election’s results, and it did not prevent Republicans from supporting her and voting for the McCain ticket. In fact, a Rasmussen poll on Nov. 4 even found that Palin was more popular with Republican voters than was McCain. Republicans based their votes on values, not prejudice.

In fact, there was only one ticket in this election that was composed of two white males – the Libertarian Party ticket. They received 0.4 percent of the vote, most of which was from actual libertarians. If Americans were truly too bigoted to vote for a minority or female candidate, then the Libertarian ticket would have seen a larger voter turnout.

America’s integrity did not change on Nov. 4, and it will not change on Jan. 20 when Obama takes office. Today’s America is the same one that has existed for the last three decades. Ever since the Civil Rights Movement of the ’60s, America has been one of the most diverse, open and tolerant societies in the world. But for whatever reasons, some people failed to acknowledge this fact until Tuesday’s historic events took place. And some will continue to deny it.

Let this be clear: There are bigots in America, and they will always exist. We need to continue to promote tolerance so that this small subset of people continues to shrink in numbers. But America is not a systemically bigoted country, and it was not a systemically bigoted country last week, last month, or last year. We live in the same America today that we lived in yesterday, and it is, and will continue to be, the greatest nation on this Earth.

The only change that will occur on Jan. 20 is that a new person will hold the presidential office. He will lead us and be a symbol of our nation for the next four years, and it is important for all Americans to rally behind him. We are all Obama supporters now. America is my country, and Barack Obama will be my president. I did not vote for him, and I still strongly disagree with him on most of the issues, but I will always stand behind him as the leader of our nation. When I find it necessary to oppose him, I will do so forcefully but respectfully.

I encourage all of my fellow Republicans here at UCSB to do the same. Now that the American electorate has had its say, we should put this past year of campaigning aside. We should not compromise our values or concede our positions, but over the next four years, we need to be continually supportive and as collaborative as we can be with President Obama.

After all, that’s exactly what a maverick would do.