The United States showed up its critics and gave a fillip to its admirers by re-electing its first African-American president. Perhaps more significantly, it reposed faith in him despite four years of economic recession and record levels of unemployment. President Barack Obama was the world's candidate for the US presidency for many reasons. He was such a uniquely multi-cultural and multi-racial candidate that it was hard to believe any other country in the world would be prepared to accept. He also represents a model of self-discipline and intellectual awareness that should inspire anyone who did not have a stable family and a solid cultural mooring. Mr Obama was, as his own autobiographical writings declared, about the audacity of hope. And that hope was renewed again on Wednesday.
Nonetheless, the US president faces challenges in his second administration that almost match those that he faced in his first. Mr Obama knows that a second administration for a president can either be a time to build a legacy - or a time of minimal accomplishment. The latter fate often arises from the fact a second-term president only has two to three years before he beco-mes politically redundant. And the challenges are many. The US economy is anaemic. Growth is flat, job creation is minimal and the economy faces a major debt problem whose resolution cannot be postponed much further. This will be exacerbated by a slowing Chinese economy and a crisis-riddled European Union. His foreign policy situation is marginally better in the sense that the US has all but extricated itself from two expensive and bloody wars. Perhaps most usefully is that on the domestic front his opponents, the Republican Party, are in a shambles. The right-wing of the latter party has pushed it into socially regressive and anti-immigration positions that have eroded the conservative political base into almost nothing. Hopefully, this will give Mr Obama the sort of leverage with his legislature that he could not find in his first term.
Unsurprisingly, the US president has pleaded for a new unity in a fractured US polity. Mr Obama has also understood that the economy is the overwhelming concern of his people. His victory in large part was dependent on the fact that most Americans continue to blame George W Bush for the recession rather than him. That excuse will not hold in the next four years. The president has proven a remarkable political success. He now needs to be a remarkable policy success. Without that, the audacity and the hope that he has come to represent will come to be seen as abstract, theoretical concepts that future leaders should eschew. No world leader probably has as much goodwill behind him across the world than Mr Obama. He can fulfil these great expectations by completing the task of restoring the US to its original greatness.