- Barack Obama, a 47-year-old first-term senator from Illinois, shattered more than 200 years of history Tuesday night by winning election as the first African-American president of the United States.
A crowd of 125,000 people jammed Grant Park in Chicago, where Obama addressed the nation for the first time as its president-elect at midnight ET. Hundreds of thousands more — Mayor Richard Daley said he would not be surprised if a million Chicagoans jammed the streets — watched on a large television screen outside the park.
“If there is anyone out there who doubts that America is a place where anything is possible, who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time, who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer,” Obama declared.
And now that the Democrats have swept the House and Senate, now I can hopefully have the haters SHUT THE F**K UP. Be careful what you wish for, because now the only fingers you can point are at yourselves. No more evil Republicans standing in your way. Get it done.
Update: Former right-wing politico Steven Den Beste, shares my sentiment, more succinctly encapsulating my thoughts in his "what are the good sides" list. Otherwise, his piece, while entertaining, is much darker and cynical than I about the next four years. I am not a doomsday believer (for either side's vilification), but I like to give equal time for another side's finger pointing!
- It's easy to let yourself go in despair and start thinking things like "We are well-and-truly fucked" or "This is the worst of all possible outcomes". But it isn't true.
I think this election is going to be a "coming of age" moment for a lot of people. They say, "Be careful what you wish for" and a lot of people got their wish yesterday.
And now they're bound to be disappointed. Not even Jesus could satisfy all the expectations of Obama's most vocal supporters, or fulfill all the promises Obama has made.
I think Obama is going to turn out to be the worst president since Carter, and for the same reason: good intentions do not guarantee good results. Idealists often stub their toes on the wayward rocks of reality, and fall on their faces. And the world doesn't respond to benign behavior benignly.
But there's another reason why: Obama has been hiding his light under a basket. A lot of people bought a pig in a poke today, and now they're going to find out what they bought. Obama isn't what most of them think he is. The intoxication of the cult will wear off, leaving a monumental hangover.
And four years from now they'll be older and much wiser.
A lot of bad things are going to happen during this term. But I don't think that this is an irreversible catastrophe for the union. I've lived long enough to absorb this basic truth: the US is too large and too strong to destroy in just 4 years. Or even in 8. We survived 6 years of Nixon. We survived 4 years of Carter. We even survived 8 years of Clinton, God alone knows how.
The President of the United States is the most powerful political figure in the world, but as national executives go his powers are actually quite restricted. Obama will become President, but he won't be dictator or king, let alone deity. He still has to work with the House and the Senate, and he still has to live within Constitutional restrictions, and with a judiciary that he mostly didn't appoint.
The main reason this will be a "coming of age" moment is that now Obama and the Democrats have to put up or shut up. Obama got elected by making himself a blank slate, with vapid promises about "hope" and "change" -- but now he actually has to do something. Now he has to reveal his true agenda. And with the Democrats also having a majority in both chambers of Congress, now the Democrats really have to lead. And they're not going to do a very good job of it. It's going to be amusing to watch.
And the people who fell for the demagoguery will learn an invaluable lesson.
Oh, the Democrats try to blame failure on Republican filibusters, of which there will be many. But that's always been a factor in our system, and many people believe it's an important check on government excess. The tradition in the Senate is that it is supposed to be a buffer against transient political fads, and the filibuster is a major part of that.
If the Democrats go all in, and change the filibuster rule, then they'll have truly seized the nettle with both hands and won't have any excuses any longer. That's why they won't do it. It's their last fig-leaf. But even with the filibuster rule in place, they'll be stuck trying to deliver now on all the promises implied, or inferred, during this election. The Republicans can only filibuster on bills the Democrats have already proposed.
And it ain't possible for the Democrats to deliver what's been promised. Gonna be a hell of a lot of disillusioned lefties out there. A lot of people who felt they were deceived. A lot of people who will eventually realize that the Obama campaign was something of a cult.
Disillusionment will turn to a feeling of betrayal. And that will, in turn, convert to anger.
In the mean time, Obama and Congressional Democrats will do things that cause harm, but very little of it will be irreversible.
I would have enjoyed watching lefty heads explode if McCain had won. But we're going to see lefty heads exploding anyway; it's just going to take longer.
In the mean time, those of us who didn't want Obama to be president have to accept that he is. And let's not give in to the kind of paranoid fever dreams that have consumed the left for the last 8 years. Let us collectively take a vow tonight: no "Obama derangement syndrome". Obama is a politician. He isn't the devil incarnate.
So what are the good sides of what just happened?
1. It is no longer possible for anyone to deny that the MSM is heavily biased. The MSM have been biased for decades but managed an illusion of fairness. That is no longer possible; the MSM have squandered their credibility during this campaign. They'll never get that credibility back again.
2. Since the Democrats got nearly everything they hoped for in this campaign, they'll have no excuses and will have to produce. They'll have to reveal their true agenda -- or else make clear that they don't really have any beyond gaining power.
3. Every few decades the American people have to be reminded that peace only comes with strength. The next four years will be this generation's lesson.
Now, a few predictions for the next four years:
1. Obama's "hold out your hand to everyone" foreign policy is going to be a catastrophe. They'll love it in Europe. They're probably laughing their heads off about it in the middle east already.
2. The US hasn't suffered a terrorist attack by al Qaeda since 9/11, but we'll get at least one during Obama's term.
3. We're going to lose in Afghanistan.
4. Iran will get nuclear weapons. There will be nuclear war between Iran and Israel. (This is the only irreversibly terrible thing I see upcoming, and it's very bad indeed.)
5. There will eventually be a press backlash against Obama which will make their treatment of Bush look mild. Partly that's going to be because Obama is going to disappoint them just as much as all his other supporters. Partly it will be the MSM desperately trying to regain its own credibility, by trying to show that they're not in his tank any longer. And because of that they are eventually going to do the reporting they should have done during this campaign, about Obama's less-than-savory friends, and about voter fraud, and about illegal fund-raising, and about a lot of other things.
and 6. Obama will not be re-elected in 2012. He may even end up doing an LBJ and not even running again.
One last thing: I'm not saying I'm happy with this outcome. I would much rather have had McCain win. But this is not the end of the world, or the end of this nation. We've survived much worse.
And now we need to show the lefties how to lose. Our mission for the next four years is to be in opposition without becoming deranged.
UPDATE: One other good thing: no one will be spinning grand conspiracy theories about this administration's Vice President being an evil, conniving genius who is the true power behind the throne.
- Will he live up to all this? Who knows? Probably not; he's a human being and human beings screw up and are always disappointing at some point along the line. (I can understand his reasons for not doing so, but it would have been nice if Obama had taken a strong public stand against California's odious Proposition 8.) But I like his chances. Curiosity, in my book, always beats out disengagement. Respect for knowledge and expertise always beats out callous disregard for same. Thoughtfulness always beats out rock-solid convicion in one's own instincts and sensations about people. Also, Obama has been surrounding himself with people who know how Washington works and who will have the relationships and understanding to get things done, and Obama has been running as a change agent, which is different from running as an outsider. Frankly, I've never liked the whole "outsider" thing. Sure, a fresh set of eyes and perspectives is good, but too often this is couched in the assumption that everything in Washington is bad, bad, bad, and that what's needed is someone to show up who has no idea at all of what goes on there. (Of course, this is no guarantee of anything either; while Jimmy Carter was notable in his failure to understand how to work the mechanisms of Washington to get things done, George W. Bush surrounded himself with people who did understand those mechanisms, to results that may be even more dolorous than the ones Carter produced.)