Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Reflections on the Election, Part 2

Okay, so I promised this entry last night.  I'm sorry that I was foolish enough to think I would get to type it.  I was transfixed by the news all night.  I ended the evening asleep on my couch around 1am as my last guest, waiting for North Carolina, Al Franken, and other races probably saw me asleep, got up, turned out the lights, and went home.

I had a great party.  It was pretty bipartisan:

Amber - Obama
Jessica - Obama
Brian - McCain
Bridget - McCain
Robin - Obama
Gina - McCain
James - McCain
Michael - Obama
Philip - Obama
Mark - McCain
Diane - McCain
Mike - McCain
Lin - Obama
Chris - McCain
Joe - McCain
Liz - Obama
Karen - Obama
Mike F. - Obama
Matthew - Baldwin
Stephen - Baldwin

So the joke all night was that I voted for "Alec Baldwin" instead of for Chuck Baldwin.

So, McCain squeaked by at my house.  Part of the crowd at my house was happy, the other part was, unsurprisingly, fairly subdued.

Some observations:

I'm amazed that they can predict with high accuracy, and with zero percent of precincts reporting, the outcome of the election.  Blows my mind.  It was also strange, and terribly refreshing, in a decade that has been dominated by Florida and Ohio, that it was California, Oregon, and Washington that pushed Obama over the top.  We knew it would happen at the top of the hour, and when the chyron read "Obama elected President" there was silence in the room from supporters of both candidates.  We just looked, transfixed.

2 years.  Over.  Finally.  After a few minutes of shock, we wondered when McCain would come on.  We pondered what the phone conversations must be like at this moment: "Congratulations Mr. President-Elect.  Thank you, Senator.  You ran a great race.  So did you.  I look forward to giving you my support and uniting the country.  Thanks for that, John."

That dialogue would have been implausible for me, save for the fact that John McCain gave the speech of his life.  A man who I've never found remarkable in speechmaking found his voice, at the verge of tears, above the din of classless booing supporters, and pledged his support behind the new President.

Then the man who got elected for, among other things, making great speeches, our new President-Elect, gave one of his own.  In his speech, he alluded to Kennedy's "pay any price" line from the Inaugural.  He also alluded to the Gettysburg address, not lost on those of us who realize Obama was not too long ago a state senator from Illinois, as Lincoln once aspired to be.  His delivery was crisp as ever, but it finally, I think, carried the real note of gravitas.  As we watched him come out, I was the only one to speak, and all I could think to say was: "The burden of the world is upon your shoulders, now."  Whatever he thought was going on prior to this - it's the real deal now.

His speech didn't allude to any policy, and I found it interesting, as my friend Brian pointed out this morning, that the only reference to the war was something to the effect of "we should keep in mind those troops who were defending us tonight."  A lot of people don't know that Obama wants to escalate the war in Afghanistan.  How much stomach does the Democratic wing of the Democratic party really have for more war?  We will find out soon.

And if this morning's indication of former Clinton staffer Rahm Emmanuel as perhaps Obama's Chief of Staff shows just how far Obama is willing to implement "change" we might not have to wait long at all to be uninspired.

But for now, the dust has settled.  We have a President-Elect in transition.  Let's see how his Cabinet shapes up.  We won't have to wait long for him to make monumental decisions.  And it's fair to say that John Paul Stevens and Ruth Bader Ginsberg are arguing about who is going to retire first.

We have a nearly 60-seat Democratic majority in the Senate and an even larger plurality in the House.  Bob Novak rightly argues that Obama did not receive a mandate, nor does he have the tools and majority with which to enact mandates, but in the context of the last 8 years, he certainly treated the Republicans to their just dessert for 8 years of irresponsible governance:  "a thumping," as our outgoing President would call it.

This is the real question that looms above all of Obama's upcoming decisions as he figures out where he will lead this country in the next 4 years:  Will he govern from the center, to which he has run throughout most of the General Election, or will he cater to the needs of the ultra-Left that helped to elect him?  It's fair to say that whatever position he takes, Senator Clinton will stake out the position best suited to oppose him.

The mantle of governance is now upon the Democrats, the other side of the Janus coin that features the Republicans.  Let's see what they can do.

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