Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Election Postmortem

Well, the election went about as badly as I feared it might, with the Republican Party getting waxed at every level. I'm afraid of what Barack Obama will do as president, but there is a bright side: the election of an African-American (which I view as an extremely positive notion in the abstract) should lead to the "descendancy" of professional grievance-mongers and racketeering race-baiters like Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton. As Stuart Taylor noted in the National Journal, the question remains which Obama will show up in January to be sworn in: the left-wing ideologue that his record indicates he has always been, or the post-partisan, post-racial "agent of hope and change" that he campaigned as. I agree with Taylor that if Obama pursues a purely leftist agenda, he will be a complete failure as president (Jimmy Carter II!), but, unlike Taylor, I have little confidence that Obama knows how to be anything but a left-wing ideologue. I think we'll know for certain early on, when Obama is faced with decisions such as: (a) whether or not to reinstate the so-called "Fairness Doctrine" (which would be clearly aimed at censoring conservative talk radio); (b) whether or not to repeal the Patriot Act and other legislation enacted to fight the War on Terror; (c) whether or not to close down the military detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba; and (d) whether or not to end the U.S.'s military involvement in Iraq in general. However Obama chooses to govern, he will almost certainly disappoint either his DailyKos base or the millions of moderates who voted for him in the expectation that he will be president of the entire country, not just one extreme sector of it. (As Jonah Goldberg observed this morning, if Obama governs to the center, it will be good for the country, and if he governs to the left, it will be good for the Republican Party.)

What enabled Obama to win the election? Clearly, the majority of the country wants to take a different course, and, just as clearly, George W. Bush's unpopularity has created tremendous ill will toward the Republican brand. Yet the polls seemed to indicate that the ongoing financial crisis was what finally turned the tide inexorably in the Democrats' favor. The meltdown was caused primarily by the subprime mortgage crisis, yet it was the Dems who fomented dubious mortgage-lending practices, first by enacting legislation such as the Community Reinvestment Act and then by fiercely resisting heightened regulation of FNMA and FHLMC at a time when it was obvious to most people in Washington that things were going very wrong in the home-loan markets. That they were then able, in a classic case of projection, to direct blame at the Bush Administration -- and all those greedy capitalists on Wall Street -- is ironic in the extreme. (The mainstream media assisted them greatly in that endeavor, which underscores the fact that, contrary to the wishful thinking in one of my earlier posts, they still have great power to influence public opinion, or at least the opinions of the squishy swing voters who decide elections in this country. The sad thing is that the media obviously have come to see that as their raison d'ĂȘtre, becoming the de facto propaganda arm of the Democratic Party.)

John McCain, then, was the victim of a "perfect storm" in which fate and chance repeatedly conspired to kill his chances of winning. In the end, he was left throwing various pieces of poop at his opponent in the futile hope that something would stick, which is never a position in which a candidate for office wants to find himself. It could also be argued that Sarah Palin, McCain's running mate, wasn't ready for the national stage, although I still believe otherwise. She failed to help McCain capture the moderate middle, but, with the unfair, relentless battering she received at the hands of the media -- which highlighted their boundless capacity for seeking to achieve the destruction of women and minorities who dare to stray from the liberal plantation -- it's difficult to see now how any running mate could have done that. I hope, moving forward, that she stays in the national spotlight, as I have no doubt she'll prove her critics wrong over time.

As far as New Mexico goes, we ended up with a congressional delegation composed entirely of Democrats, which makes it hard to dispute that we are now a solidly "blue" state. Unfortunately, Tom Udall as senator will be no Pete Domenici -- he's more like a featherweight version of the already-lightweight Jeff Bingaman -- suggesting that our two senators will wield very little influence in Washington. That doesn't bode well for New Mexico's national labs, and, honestly, I'm not sure either Bingaman or Udall really cares, notwithstanding the tremendous economic impact that federal spending has in this state. Our new congressman in the First District will be Martin Heinrich, a former city councilor who might not have defeated Heather Wilson (our departing congresswoman, who decided to vacate her seat to run in the senate primary election), given even the current political environment.

In closing, I wanted to say something about the Bush presidency. Although he will be leaving office as one of the most unpopular presidents of all time, I tend to believe that historians will be kind to George W. Bush, and for three simple reasons: (1) after 9/11, his policies prevented further large-scale terrorist attacks against America or its interests abroad; (2) the establishment of a middle-eastern democratic beachhead in Iraq may still serve to quell the fascistic sort of fervor that gives rise to terrorist impulses in the rest of the Islamic world; and (3) his humanitarian initiatives in Africa have already done much good for a continent about which the rest of the world has largely forgotten. In four years, I think we could easily be looking back with great nostalgia for the Bush administration.