The dust is finally settling. Democrats now have the White House, and majorities in both Houses of Congress. If you’re bothering to read this, you undoubtedly know what happened in your neck of the woods, so I’m not going to re-hash the results themselves.
Nor am I going to talk at length about the crucial factors that made the difference; suffice it to say that a more organized campaign, a massive get-out-the-vote operation, the economic collapse, a nationwide feeling of Bush fatigue and, yes, race all played hefty roles.
I will say this: I have for a long time had a great deal of respect for Senator McCain. Unfortunately, Candidate McCain wasn’t even the same man, and lost a great deal of that respect as the campaign wore on.
What is far more important than all of the above is what the result actually MEANS for the country. We have, in our President-elect, a man with a great deal of intelligence and charisma, but a notable lack of experience. This is offset by the vast experience Joe Biden brings to the table, and the immensely long list of advisors from whom Obama will hopefully solicit opinions before making his decisions. However, the ultimate authority in many situations will lie with Obama. I desperately hope that he has the wisdom to listen to the advice he is given.
I also desperately hope that Obama’s presidency is a successful one; if not, it could be a substantial setback for subsequent “minority” candidates. The weight of expectation now thrust onto his shoulders is immense, considering both his quasi-messianic status among devotees and the fact that he is inheriting two wars and an economy in crisis. The definition of “success” for the next four years may well be simply a matter of not screwing anything up too badly, but I very much hope to see more. It’s not going to be an easy term, for him or for us, but I do have hope that better days are in store.
I have seen two separate writers, both of whose opinions I greatly respect, refer to the job of President as Persuader-in-Chief. Indeed, it will not be Obama’s job to make the laws (hence the separation of the executive and legislative branches) but he will nonetheless have a role in shaping them. The charm and charisma so often displayed during the campaign may indeed be his most valuable asset as he asks members of Congress and foreign leaders for their support on specific initiatives. A smile and a handshake from “That One” could be as effective as the Majority Whip will be.
One area in which I fervently hope that the Democratic Party make bold steps forward is GLBT rights. Over half the states in the Union now have bans in place on same-sex marriage, and some of them ban or restrict the adoption of children by same-sex couples. However you slice it, this IS discriminatory – a subset of the populace is being denied rights which the rest enjoy. This is not particularly different from the long-gone classification of black people as three-fifths of a person, nor from the restriction on voting rights to men only. I do not contest that the legal frameworks of the nation and the individual states allow for such bans, but I cannot, and will not, accept that they should ever be enacted. Personally, I feel that banning anyone else’s marriage threatens my own far more than allowing it ever could. I also do not accept the argument that allowing same-sex marriages will culminate in people being allowed to marry their pets, or whatever the latest idiocy is. I believe that if you are able to give your informed consent to a marriage, you should be allowed to enter into it, regardless of gender, gender identity or sexuality.
Another area is lobbying reform. When lawmakers are being offered inducements in return for their votes on legislation, the best interests of the nation are no longer being served. If the special interests are not a factor and members of Congress can vote with their consciences instead of their pocketbooks, we might see real accomplishments.
Due in part to Obama’s race and in part to the polarization of the country, many people have raised the horrific specter of another presidential assassination. We can all pray that this does not transpire, for I do not believe it would do anybody any good. However, it does reinforce the single piece of advice I would give to President-elect Obama, and would ask that he heed above all else: govern each day as though it is your last. Don’t think about re-election in four years, think about what you can do each and every day to make the United States of America better for all its citizens. I believe that four years of operating in this manner will do infinitely more good than eight years without.
Another blogger I read came to these shores with his family while he was still a boy. Last night, his father texted him with the words “THIS is the reason I brought you to America.” Let’s not have that faith – that hope – be in vain.
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