Nov 102008

Last Tuesday night/Wednesday morning was certainly a bittersweet time. As I’ve said before, I’m not one of the millions of Obama-maniacs, but I was glad he won. I think America will soon be in far better hands than she is now. I was even more pleased to see a good number of hateful and bigoted Republicans kicked to curb, and their nasty campaign rhetoric repudiated. Obviously though, the passage of the three anti-marriage amendments was a great disappointment.

Obama's First Press Conference as President ElectThe Big Picture

Obama was clearly the winner, and it seems he did it with a tightly run and disciplined campaign. One of the heartening parts of his campaign was that it was funded to a record-breaking level by millions of smaller donations from everyday people. They relied on thousands of volunteers, and brought an untold number of new and younger people into the political system. And I don’t mean just newly registered voters, but more important, people who made an investment of themselves into the campaign. I think that is critical in trying to restore democracy to this country. However, it means those millions have a vested interest in his success. That cuts both ways. It means he should get support, but people will expect results.

Certainly both sides ran attack ads. That is to be expected, but I found Obama’s to be a lot fewer and a lot less nasty. The McCain just went out of their way to be disrespectful to Obama, and hateful in the messages they were putting out. I saw nothing but negative ads from the McCain campaign. At various times throughout the campaign, especially from the end of September during the economic collapse and through the election, McCain gave off a very real attitude of panic and foundering. It was clear that he and his campaign were struggling to find a voice. Obama seemed to remain calm, decisive and above it all…in short, he came off as more Presidential, and I think the voters perceived that.

What Was Different

I believe there was also something of a perfect storm of events and changes in the world that made this election different. Many of these were things the Republicans could not, or didn’t, account for. In the end, I think they make our democracy stronger. 

In previous election years, Republicans have made harsh and hateful statements, but then just denied them later on, and the “liberal media” just dropped it. This time around people were at these events carrying cell phones capable of recording the event, and many did. Then these things hit YouTube and blogosphere picks it up, and the main stream media finally has to acknowledge what was said. I wrote about a great example here where Rep. Robin Hayes (R-NC) said, “Folks, there’s a real America. Liberals hate real Americans that work and achieve and believe in God.” When called on it, he simply issued a statement saying he never made these comments. Unfortunately, some of these old gray hairs just don’t understand these modern conveniences and the viral nature of things.

And we can only hope that this election seemed to be a repudiation of the politics of personal destruction. Like it or not, McCain ran a far more negative campaign, and Caribou Barbie was just plain mean. Certainly there was a segment of the population that loved it, but clearly those messages not only fall on deaf ears, but seem to have a reverse effect. Elizabeth Dole was in a hotly contested race in North Carolina. She had done a poor job representing the state, but at the end ran one of the sleaziest campaign ads I’ve ever seen. It played out on the Internet, and her opponent, virtually overnight, received hundreds of thousands of dollars from across the country, and in the end Liddy Dole lost her seat.

Obviously, the economy had an impact, and the dissmal approval ratings of George Bush made it a bad year to be a Republican, but they counted on the same kind of dirty campaign tactics, and it just didn’t work as well this time. I sincerely hope it is a sign of things to come.

I’m glad Obama had a significant margin of victory, as I am literally not sure the Republic would have survived having the Supreme Court appoint another President. I think early voting made a huge difference, as it made it a lot harder for Republicans to cage voters, and frankly, I give some credit to the blogosphere for getting out information ignored by the main stream media. Certainly much of it was trivial, but in a lot of cases, it was important information the voters should be able to access.

What’s Next

Democrats had better be prepared to govern. The people are now expecting results, and neither branch of government will have the opportunity to blame it on the other, as Democrats are clearly in control.

The Democrats seem to be making overtones of reconciliation to scumbag, Joe Lieberman. I don’t know who he pictures of doing what to whom, but they’d better be good. I don’t care if Lieberman continues to be allowed to caucus with the Democrats, but he’d better not hold a committee chairmanship. However, it appears Reid is prepared to give him one.

Pundits are now running around screaming that Democrats had better not “overreach,” or make changes too fast. I’m sorry. I have a problem with that, and believe this electorate won’t have patience for creeping change. The pundits are basically trying to tell Democrats to not do exactly what they were hired TO do. The electorate has clearly moved toward the progressive side of the spectrum on most issues, and they clearly voted on “Change.” That sounds to me like a clarion call for bold steps. That’s what America is known for.

The Republicans are lining up in the traditional circular firing squad blaming everyone but themselves. They are great at throwing their own under the bus, and this is no exception. Sarah Palin is their favorite target for scapegoating now. Caribou Barbie certainly did nothing to help the ticket. Oh, she excited the base, but were they going to vote for Obama without her on the ticket….NOT! She was a bad choice, she was unprepared and showed it, and she hurt the McCain/Palin ticket, but I think she probably helped down-ticket Republican candidates by getting out larger numbers of the base.

Frankly, she showed herself to be a vindictive and hateful person, but it seems lots of people in Alaska knew that already. She’s as corrupt, if not more so, than most Republicans, and this country would have been ill-served with her as a Vice-President, and I would have predicted the collapse of the Republic if she’d ever become President.

All that said, the campaign operatives need to shut up. It was a bad choice by John McCain, and he, above everyone else, gets to live with the consequences. His hopes of being President are forever over. Going around now making up stupid shit about her is unprofessional and just plain mean. I no longer want to hear it. I don’t care now, and never cared how much was spent on clothes and makeup. She was in the public eye, and of course the campaign needs her to make a perfect impression. I do care that she tried to circumvent public records laws in Alaska by using yahoo email accounts for state business. I care that she misused the power of her office to carry out personal vendettas, but that’s Alaska business. Leave that to them now.

Is Sarah going to be a force in Republican politics, and will she run in 2012? We can only hope, as it will dramatically improve the chances of continuing to expand the Democratic margin. Republicans have traditionally been a very disciplined bunch (a little less so this election, but servile to the party nonetheless), and I suspect this scorched earth policy regarding Palin is an effort by the Republican hierarchy to ensure that Palin can never re-emerge on the national political scene. 

As for the Republican party in general…I suspect we’ll see the religious right try to pull them even further to the right. In an article at Raw Story, David Edwards and Andrew McLemore write about a Fox News interview with Rep. Mike Pence:

When asked by Chris Wallace what “conservative solutions” the GOP would bring to their current minority-party status, Pence said social issues like “the sanctity of marriage” will remain the backbone of the Republican platform.

“You build those conservative solutions, Chris, on the same time-honored principles of limited government, a belief in free markets, in the sanctity of life, the sanctity of marriage,” Pence said.

I’ll never quite get it with these Republicans. The dirty little secret of conservatism is that they really don’t want limited government. They want to limit the scope of government to carry out programs they don’t like, but they can be counted on to expand the scope of government to carry out programs they do like. They want little government when it comes to social programs like Medicare, but plenty of government when it comes to warrant-less surveillance. They don’t want government to enforce equal rights protections, but loads of government enforcement of immigration laws. They want little government to rebuild New Orleans, but big government to wage war against whichever foreign dictator has pissed them off.

So, the truth is, they aren’t really against having big government, against government doing anything that might smack of progressivness. And whatever government is doing, whether they approve or not, they don’t think they should pay for it. Tax revenues are supposed to somehow magically appear. 

Republicans just don’t get it anymore. David Frum argues (in effect) that the Republican base is shrinking, and if the GOP doesn’t adjust to demographic realities it will go the way of the dodo.

The base is almost entirely white, almost entirely resident in the middle of the country, moderately affluent, middle-aged and older, more male than female, with some college education but not a college degree. Think of Joe the Plumber and you see the core of the Republican party.

 Obama captured nearly 60% of voters under 30. Republicans have painted themselves into a corner with wedge issues. Most Americans want to keep abortion legal, and, especially among young people, hard attitudes on homosexuality are softening. People don’t trust Republicans with their futures and their money. Republicans have been great at campaigning and sloganeering, but horrible at governing. And, it seems they just can’t help themselves. The minions are still in campaign smear mode, holding up every single thing Barack Obama does as evidence that he’s the bad guy. Now they’re complaining about Obama’s transition web site, for pity’s sake.

So I just see more of the same from Republicans. There won’t be any working across the aisle. They will treat Obama worse than they ever treated Bill Clinton. I just hope the Democrats in Congress grow a spine over the next two months.

Ballot Initiatives and Local Issues

I’m obviously not happy with the way votes went on the three anti-marriage amendments, but will save that for a story of its own. Here in Hillsborough County the biggest and dumbest jerk on the County Commission was replaced with a gay man. One small step in the right direction.

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