Quote of the Day “And to all those watching tonight from beyond our shores, from parliaments and palaces to those who are huddled around radios in the forgotten corners of our world – our stories are singular, but our destiny is shared, and a new dawn of American leadership is at hand. To those who would tear this world down – we will defeat you. To those who seek peace and security – we support you. And to all those who have wondered if Americas beacon still burns as bright – tonight we proved once more that the true strength of our nation comes not from our 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. —President Elect, Barack Obama
It looks like Obama ended up winning about 52% of the popular vote last night along with a commanding majority in the Electoral College. Comparing the popular vote with our last four elections, it was a strong majority. It was roughly equivalent to Bush’s win over Dukakis, and it was substantially below either of Reagan’s margins. So what does it mean?
I think Obama has a mandate to change US policy abroad, but not in a wholesale manner, assuming he even wants to. What I expect to see is a lot more diplomacy and less heavy handedness in our negotiating style. I hope and believe that a change in the White House will lead to America regaining a leadership position in the world rather than trying to enforce domination upon it. A little more carrot and a little less stick, to coin a phrase. That does not mean I think Obama will be weak. As a matter of fact, I fear more that he will feel compelled to turn to the military more quickly than necessary in order to stave off accusations of weakness. Discounting Bush the Younger, our left leaning Presidents have historically done just that while our right wing leaders have often succeeded unexpectedly in diplomacy. The greatest example of that is probably Nixon going to China, something no Democrat would have been able to do without being damaged politically. On the other hand, it was Democrats Truman, Kennedy, and Johnson that got us into wars along with W. But I think Obama will use good judgment, particularly in surrounding himself with thinkers rather than ideologues. Time will tell.
On the home front, I will candidly say this was not the tsunami I was expecting or hoping for. Still, it was a huge Democratic victory with either 5 or 6 Senate seats gained and around 24 House seats. The two races I was watching most closely were the Senate campaigns in North Carolina and Minnesota. In Minnesota, it looks like Norm Coleman will hang on–a very surprising result in my eyes from a “liberal” state in the midst of a Democratic wave. On the other hand, in moderately conservative North Carolina, Libby Dole was soundly defeated. It was a split decision in the culture wars. I believe Dole lost due to her despicable ad trying to convince voters her opponent, a Sunday School teacher, was godless. I don’t have an opinion as to why Coleman hung on. But I do have a ten-cent opinion on what the elections told us, from President down through Congress.
The Republican Party lives and remains strong. Conservative ideas are alive. But outside the Confederacy, southern dominated conservative politics are dead as a doornail. Only in the deep south do campaigns focused on race or sexual orientation or McCarthyism style demagoguery still thrive. The rest of the country is fed up with it, and the outer edges of the South are getting there. Southern style social conservatives are consuming the old Reagan coalition. As I have said on this blog many times, I think the conservative thesis that all government is bad is simply wrong. It is, like all generalizations, overly broad. However, conservatism focused on limiting government’s power still makes good sense. Tyranny by corporations replaced by tyranny of bureaucrats is no good trade. If the thinking conservatives can re-take their party from the religious fundamentalists, false patriots and race baiters, it will not be long before they reassert their strength. In the coming weeks, it will be interesting to see whether the Romney wing of the party or the Palin wing wrests control. Huckabee is a wild card who would probably make a good leader if he’d just get educated on evolution and when the dinosaurs lived.
As for the Democrats, the election shows the country believes there is a place for progressive ideas and legislation. We have heard it so long that most accept it to be true without question or consideration–America is a center-right country. TB accepts nothing without question or consideration when it comes to politics. In my opinion, such a statement is another over-generalization. There are so many issues. To say we are collectively center-right is both a misstatement and non-sensical. On gun ownership, we are far right. On taxes, we are center. On freedom of speech, press, and religion, we are far left. On new issues, like global warming and alternative energy, it remains to be seen. I believe we are center-left on what will become, maybe has become, one of the most important issues of the day. My point is, each issue is different and no simple categorization is sufficient to define a country as large and varied as the USA.
I am looking forward to the Obama Presidency. I have high expectations of him. They are not so much in what accomplishments I expect as they are in how his administration conducts itself. I expect integrity, respect for civil liberties and human rights, strong and sensible diplomacy and political courage. If he indeed has these traits, as it has appeared to me over the last two years, his tenure will be a success.