The elections are over and the (big) result wasn't a surpise. Barack Obama will be our next president. On the comment board, an old friend expressed her absolute joy in the outcome.
Well I voted for him too, but a little less enthusiastically than Ang. Though my candidate got knocked out in the previous round, I like Obama well enough. As with any president, I have some reservations, but I think he's smart; he's obviously committed to being president (something I began to doubt about McCain during the campaign); he has some good ideas; and he's surrounded himself with some very good people. But America is not going to become radically different at noon on January 20, 2009.
I'm not blind to the historic nature of this election, but I worry that some of his supporters are projecting messiah-like powers onto Obama. I watched his victory speech Tuesday night and I noticed the faces in the crowd before his speech began. It reminded me of film I've seen of when the Beatles came to America. I swear I saw people crying. Not his wife, close advisers, etc., but regular people. I think it's good that a politician has the power to inspire people again, but he's just a politician. Just as any other president, President Obama will have to deal with senators, representatives, judges, lobbyists, activists, etc. I do think he will implement some new policies (good and bad) that shift the country's direction, but January 21st will not find us living in the United States of Obama. I'm not sure everyone realizes that.
Bob Dylan, for instance, was quoted at a concert on election night as saying, "“I was born in 1941 -- Pearl Harbor. Things have been in darkness ever since. Things are going to change.” That pisses me off for two reasons. First, the idea that the country has been in darkness since 1941. C'mon, Bob, seriously. That's just stupid. Second, if you do believe the past 67 years have been all doom and gloom, then how can you believe that one man will magically bring the sunshine? It was a good soundbite and it expresses the belief that Obama is a new brand of politician, here to unite the country and save the day. I'm not sure.
I don't want to trot out the usual right-wing meme on his record, but Obama has shown up as a reliable liberal vote. Why would he suddenly become concillatory and reach out to others -- especially when he's going to have a big majority in Washington and the longest honeymoon period of any president since (at least) Reagan? Many people will not like his proposed changes and they'll do all they can to block them. Obama himself will "sell out" on some things he campaigned on (I'm hoping he does that on "card check" and free-trade issues). He'll also have to pander -- supporting policies he doesn't really believe in to repay electoral support (I'm hoping he does NOT do that on "card check" and free-trade issues).
In the end, I'm hoping that he can inspire some new confidence in America the Good and he can make some changes that will move us off some of the tracks we've been on the past 8 years. I believe he can. At worst, though; even if he turns out to be just another "tax the rich, expand the government" president, well the historic nature of his victory is something special and has value in its own right. So I'm sorry if I'm not excited enough about this event, but I really do look forward to seeing what the Obama administration can accomplish.
P.S. I have a post in me about that last point -- the "specialness" of his victory -- but I'll have to save that for another day. Just a teaser -- it involves Tee Martin and a relative of mine.