Election Thoughts

As Michael Harrington told me back in 1984–hoping for a Mondale victory–if he wins, tonight we celebrate. Tomorrow we start organizing to keep him honest. Like Jimmy Carter and John Kennedy, I fully expect Obama to talk a much different game than he plays.

For all the wingnut fears about a vast left-wing liberal agenda over the next four-eight years, it’s worth remembering that like Clinton before him, Obama is slightly to the right of Richard Nixon. In any other Western democracy he’d be considered somewhere from a moderate to a hard right-winger. That Obama’s considered a liberal is simply a measure of how far to the right this country has swung in the last 30 years. Not that this isn’t a victory, or an important one, but it’s small change in direction, not a large one.

When the story of this election is fully told, what I think we’ll realize is just how good a campaign Obama ran. Obama learned the lessons of the last two campaigns. If Dean or Kerry had run a campaign this well, Bush would have been out of office four years earlier. If Gore had run this well, W. would have been a minor footnote in history. Obama managed to avoid almost all the mistakes that have plagued the Democrats since 1980. Certainly, the stars aligned for him–an incumbent president with record low approval ratings, an economic crisis, an unpopular war–but Lord knows there were enough Democrats who could have blown even these advantages. Obama won because he ran the best damn campaign that’s been run in possibly ever. He organized and executed. Not only did he beat the Republican machine. He defeated the reasonably competent Clinton organization that had managed to win two presidential and two senatorial elections.

A few well-deserved raspberries: To Hillary Clinton, who claimed we should vote for her because she could attract racists who wouldn’t vote for a black man. To the pundits who said the Democrats were blowing their best opportunity in years by nominating a black man. To everyone who said young voters wouldn’t show up. To the old-strategy DNC hacks and new Democrats like Rahm Emanuel who wanted to continue the losing 25-state strategy. To all the wingnuts, especially the ones at Hillbuzz, who were predicting a McCain victory as late as this morning.

A few kudos: to the mainstream media for treating Obama’s campaign with the respect it deserved, and not deciding in advance that a black man couldn’t possibly win or even be serious about running, as they did with Jesse Jackson in 1984 and 1988. To Howard Dean for resurrecting the Democratic Party from the dead, and fighting in states the “realistic” Democrats had given up on. Keep up the good work. In 2012 I look forward to seeing a few more states turn blue.

The proof is in the winning: Obama was very likely the strongest candidate the Democrats could have nominated this year. McCain wasn’t the strongest possible Republican, but he was damn close. When the Democrats fight, and fight well, they win. Please proceed to ignore all the pundits who wanted you to lose, and will now shout about how Obama has to move to the center (by which they mean even further to the right) to govern. Ignore Republican threats of filibusters. Make the 70-year-old dinosaurs stand up through the night reading aloud from the Bible if they want to block real progress. You can outlast them.

Footnote: Wow, when McCain thanked Sarah Palin in his concession speech, there were actually boos in the crowd. I didn’t realize just what a big albatross she’d become for the McCain campaign. Even some of the McCain dittoheads don’t like her. Maybe we’ll get lucky and she’ll get the Republican nomination in 2012.

One more note: say what you want about the OC Register’s politics, they have better reporting of local election results than I ever saw in Brooklyn. In New York, you really had to work to find out who won the local school boards and state senate seats and such.

2 Responses to “Election Thoughts”

  1. robert Says:

    Sarah in 2012, unless Mr. Peabody will be ready to blast off. As to the cloture issue, there may be (I’ve not checked) vulnerable Republicans in 2010 who could be persuaded to vote cloture. The McCain dittos couldn’t have liked her; she IS the hard line right wing, and McCain never has been. He just decided that a base assault was the only feasible vector, so he either picked her on his own, or was ordered to if he wanted base support. He got it, and little else.

  2. James Orenchak Says:

    I live in Europe. Obama’s election win was great. After 8 years, I can once again hold my head high and be proud to say I’m an American!
    You’re very right in saying that Obama would be called a moderate at best and more likely a hard-line conservative in most western nations. Even small steps moving to the left will result in big improvements in relationships between the USA and most nations in Europe or Asia. The USA has been so extremely conservative, that our allies have had great difficulties understanding the USA. In Europe, a nation without healthcare for all falls into the category of third world country at best or banana republic at worst. I hope that I can soon say to my European friends that I do indeed come from a civilized country where health care is available to all who need it!

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