post-election thoughts

06Nov08

This post is going to be a bit scattered because I’m rushing around a bit today before I go on a weekend trip with friends and I wanted to say something about the election while it’s still something of a current/ongoing event. So here are my thoughts:

1. Of course I’m excited and moved and thrilled to have turned a corner in American history. First, the unequivocal rejection of the past eight years is crucial. I give John McCain more credit than many and I don’t believe a McCain presidency would have looked the same as the Bush presidency did but the vote for Obama made it clear that we want different things from our politicians and from our country. Second, the race issue is crucial, which I’ll get to in a moment.

2. I knew that the international community would be extremely pleased with an Obama presidency but I had no idea how palpable these sentiments would be. I just felt it in the air, in the headlines, etc. An older woman I didn’t know came up to me on the street to congratulate me and she was significantly more excited than I was (although if you knew me, you’d know that I rarely show extreme excitement so that’s not saying much). Numerous news and morning chat shows (a la The Today Show) have been nothing but radiant: people are genuinely proud of us and excited for us in a way that’s fairly shocking to me. I’m so glad I’m here in London to see just how much this amazing victory means to the rest of the world.

3. I’ve never been a huge fan of Jesse Jackson but there’s nothing so moving as to see a man who was there when Martin Luther King was assassinated to see something he probably never expected to see: a black man becoming president-elect.

4. I think the way the McCain campaign ended is a bit unfortunate for the senator. He was in the impossible position of trying to become a Republican president after Bush and he had the truly difficult task of trying to corral the various factions of his party in his corner in a way that Obama never had to. What seemed like a brilliant decision to pick Sarah Palin to energize the somewhat reluctant evangelical base backfired when it became clear that she was so utterly unequipped for the job. She also alienated moderates and independents in a way that was a bit unexpected: I’ve read reports from Alaskan journalists who suggest that Alaskans themselves have been surprised by just how strident some of her social positions are because that isn’t how she has governed. But his other options presented problems as well and he probably would have had trouble no matter who he picked. He deserved better but timing’s a bitch.

5. I’m certainly not the only one to say this but I’m really wary of wild proclamations that the US has surmounted its race problems. That kind of logic will only set us back. One of the biggest things that I’ve come to realize over the years is that while out-and-out racist thought is certainly on the wane, something else more insidious has replaced it. I’m constantly stunned by the kinds of things I hear from some (though by no means all or even most) of my old friends: an inability to acknowledge racial profiling when it happens in front of them, no recognition of how race plays out in many aspects of life (one example being when a friend of mine blithely said that white men date black women all the time, when what she’s really seen is a few black men dating white women), etc. What’s dangerous about this newer phenomenon is that nobody’s willing to have a conversation about it and we aren’t moving towards a society in which race plays little or no part in daily life for all.

6. I certainly accept that Republicans are bitterly disappointed. But I’ve really had enough with the Republicans who refuse to admit that there was anything that went amiss in the McCain campaign. It’s fine for Republicans to be skeptical about an Obama presidency. I voted for the man, but I’m all too aware of his thin resume. But I think it’s really disingenous to suggest that there weren’t problems with the way McCain ran the race. He lacked a coherent message throughout and he was completely thrown by the economic crisis. The Republican party needs to regroup and get back to their fiscal conservative and small government platform; those ideals play a vital role in the political discussion. But this self-evaluation can’t happen properly if people are lying to themselves about the sources of the problem. I watched the BBC coverage Tuesday night and John Bolton, the former Ambassador to the UN, was one of the pundits. Unlike the other Republican pundits that appeared throughout the night, Bolton seemed completely unwilling to accept that the McCain campaign had really struggled all the way through with direction and plan of attack. He was so delusional that he attacked roving reporters for relaying facts that didn’t reflect positively on McCain (legitimate points about Palin’s alienation of moderate Republicans, for example) and he accused the BBC of liberal media bias, which is ridiculous given that the BBC practices a model of sober and serious news journalism that PBS barely matches. This stance, it seems, does the Republican party no favors. Four years ago, I was so disappointed that Kerry lost but I never believed that Kerry’s campaign, or his candidacy, for that matter, were without flaws. Most of the people I knew felt that Kerry was a weak candidate but he was the best we could find. The conversations I had with people centered around the need for the Democratic Party to find somebody who was as charismatic as President Clinton and it seemed like we went into triage mode very quickly. But triage only happens if you’re honest about the problems.

I have other thoughts but I’ll save them for now. I’d love to hear what other people think!

[UPDATE: More evidence to show just how much the UK’s excited about the Obama win. I’m watching EastEnders and one of the characters just yelled at her daughter: “Like that nice President Obama said, ‘Yes we can!'” Case closed.]

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2 Responses to “post-election thoughts”

  1. as far as race, it’s progress. It’s not kingdom come. I totally agree with you on that.

  2. 2 Cassandrina

    “he accused the BBC of liberal media bias, which is ridiculous given that the BBC practices a model of sober and serious news journalism”

    Oh if only this was true. Unfortunately the bbc is poisoned with bias and a lack of balance, including anti-Americanism, though this may change due to Obama getting in.

    Have a happy weekend.


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