I was up very late last night and have been out of reach of the info-sphere until just now today. So I don't know whether what I'm about to say is, on the one hand, already conventional wisdom -- or on the other, thoroughly debunked. Or in between. But for what it's worth:
Barack Obama's election four years ago was, by definition, more historic than his reelection last night.
But his second win last night was more impressive than his first, and probably more important.
Why was it more impressive?
Marriage vs. first date. It was more impressive because he had to run this time as the candidate of half-a-loaf, compromised, you-know-the-goods-and-bads-of-me reality than as the vessel of unbounded, defined-upward-by-each-observer hope.
Economic headwinds vs. tailwinds. It was more impressive because four years ago the world economic collapse, plus the rubble of the Bush administration, pulled the John McCain campaign down -- beyond McCain's own mistakes and limitations. This time economic problems were Obama's burden rather than part of his rationale.
'We gave those people a chance.' It was more impressive because of the change in racial dynamics. Among non-whites, any "disappointment" in Obama may have been offset by what Ta-Nehisi Coates has often described: the greater importance for African-Americans of a re-election for this president even than of his getting there the first time. (And in any case, black support was overwhelming both times, and Latino support seems to have risen because of the GOP's anti-immigrant madness.) But very shrewd Republican messaging -- "You tried. He tried. It isn't working" -- appealed to many white voters' sense that they had proved their color-blindness by voting for him once. No one would think worse of them for deciding that the experiment had failed.