Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Post Election Wrapup

What impresses me most about Obama's victory is not that he won, but how he won it. He appealed to our better nature, with a message of hope and unity. He has consistently expected the best of Americans, and 52% of voting Americans responded.

One of the narratives from the commentariat last night was that there was nothing McCain could have done -- the conditions were simply too negative for any Republican to win. I'm not convinced that is true. The McCain campaign lost a lot of people by choosing an unqualified vice-president, and also by playing to the worst impulses of his base, in promoting the narrative of Obama as Scary Other.

However, I'm now going to differentiate "John McCain" from "the McCain campaign." I believe the McCain campaign acted shamelessly at times. But John McCain the man gave an incredibly great concession speech last night, essentially saying that all that mud was just campaigning. I hope the well isn't too poisoned from that campaigning, but McCain's shushing his supporters and offering to help out with the challenges ahead was vintage McCain 2000. I wish he had showed up more during the campaign. But, I'm grateful that he is now offereing to detox the well. Good for him.

Random observations:

  • The first sentence on the front page of the NY Times: "Barack Hussein Obama was elected the 44th president of the United States on Tuesday." I guess we can start using his middle name now. Hopefully, the stigma will wear off in the next four years.

  • It was truly touching to see so many African Americans shed tears of joy at the outcome. It was quite a shock to hear all the pundits suddenly talk about race, when it was such a verboten topic before he clinched it. My Smile Politely column is about this.

  • It was over when he won Ohio, but it was interesting to see the news media continue to play along for a full hour afterward. Of course, they didn't wait long until the polls closed in California -- I think they called it at 10:00:01 CST.

  • The challenge facing Republicans is pretty stark going forward, and it was all revealed at the two rallies last night. Like the conventions, McCain's gathering featured a small group of almost all white people, middle aged and older. The Obama gathering was hundreds of thousands of everyone - black, white, young, old, and everybody in between. As American demographics continue to change, Republicans are going to need to be more than the party of older white people.

  • My 9-year-old son has focused on the bodyguards of this election. He's been very interested in how many bodyguards Obama has and what kinds of things they might have to do to protect him. Note that this isn't because he's particularily concerned about Obama's security, but because he desires to have bodyguards of his own one day. When he saw Malia and Sasha on stage (Obama's kids), he asked whether they got bodyguards too, and was really jealous when we said that they did.

  • One casualty to this election is my belief that ordinary people could be president. Obviously, Sarah Palin plays into this, but really, it's more about Obama. I'm just egotistical enough to believe that I can do most things, and am as good as most people. But I've come to believe that Obama is extraordinary, in intelligence, in temperment, in judgement, you name it. He's the right man for these time, which would overwhelm an ordinary person. Of course, I'm assuming he will govern as brilliantly as he has campaigned. Let's hope that's true.

  • Remember last week when Bush invaded Syria? OK, technically it wasn't an invasion, but a bombing of a foreign, soveriegn country. Still, I was shocked not that it happened, but that there was so little outrage about it (except from the Syrians). What happens if you throw an October Surprise, but nobody comes? I guess no one expects much of anything anymore from Bush.

  • I quoted this from Obama's victory speech already, but it is just so exactly right: “Tonight we proved once more that the true strength of our nation comes not from the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals: democracy, liberty, opportunity and unyielding hope.”

    This is what has been wrong the last eight years. We've thought we could intimidate the world with our weapons and our wealth, without paying much attention to our ideals. The first step in fixing it is being aware of it, and yesterday we took that first step. We have a long way to go to dig out.


Crockhead said...

I'm not sure I agree with you and the pundits that McCain's concession speech was all that graceful. I was offended by him saying that African-Americans have reasons to feel proud at Obama's accomplishment. That just perpetuates the "other" meme. All Americans can feel proud that finally a man is judged by the content of his ideas and not the color of his skin. We all are diminished by racism, not just African Americans.

Robert Sievers said...

I've never seen a man elected for so little, by so many, in such a short amount of time. All because he throws out the word "change" without ever stating what kind of change.

His presidency will set race relations back a while, but hopefully we snap back out of it after his term.

Dan S said...

Hey Crock,

I didn't get that from McCain's speech, but I did hear someone proclaim today that we finally live in a color-blind society. I thought, hmm, if we lived in a color-blind society, we would treat Obama's skin color like we treat eye color, and we are not there yet.

Bob, if you mean the election will set back race relations between racists and the rest of the society, then I would agree this is a major setback. Otherwise, I have no idea what you are talking about.

djward said...

What a wonderful wrapup Dan! I'm so happy. Your mentioning of the kiddos in this and the Smile Politely column really brought it home. Incredible!!

You are right about the "ordinary American as president". One thing that is so striking about Obama is how easy he makes it all seem...his relationship with Michelle and his daughters is so real and so lovely to see, and simple comments like the puppy mention in his speech Tuesday night make is all so personal and "ordinary". But, as you said, overall he's simply not an ordinary person. Not to elevate him to superhuman status, but it does take a special person to do what he's done and is doing. It's quite a load to bear the hopes of millions and be the symbol of a generation! What a dude and what a time!

I feel very sad for John McCain...certainly not because he lost the election, but because of how much respect he's lost in the eyes of so many Americans and those around the world. I've always liked and respected John McCain for his personality, his character, and his willingness to (seemingly) not toe the Republican line. But I hate that he befriended those in the Bush machine and the far right who were so cruel to him in 2000, and how he seemed to change in order to please them. I've heard more than one pundit hypothesize that the fall of the "real" John McCain began when he talked at Liberty University in the spring 2006, and I'd have to agree. John McCain is a better person than this campaign showed, I think. He's not Sarah Palin or George Bush or far right, but those are the sorts of people he had to sadly align himself with over the past few years in order to please the red staters, and that's now how most of the world will remember him. As you said, his concession speech (and his most recent SNL appearance, I'd submit) showed a glimpse of the true John McCain that has been hidden behind the Rovian campaign McCain. I'd like to remember him for the pre-campaign '08 John McCain instead of the bitter old white guy McCain that pals around with the religious right and the so-called "values voters". How embarassing for him to now forever be linked in history with Sarah Palin...a now-tarnished legacy of a legitimate American hero.

But, he's old news at this point, and soon Bush will be as well. What a challenge it will be for Obama and all of us to overcome the challenges we have in front of us, but it certainly will be interesting...and, dare I say, watch. Hope and positivity are beautiful things!

Dan S said...

Great wrapup Dave. I wonder what would have happened if McCain 2000 had run in '08, instead of McCain version '08. I guess we'll never know...