Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Readings for the day after

Fabio Rojas, "why i admire the obama i know and fear for the obama that is to come"

Franklin Foer, "Hail to the chief, any chief"

Todd Seavey, "Time for Obama Honeymoon to End" (NB: in parliamentary procedure, the time to reconsider something that's just happened isn't until a member of the previous majority says so!)

David Bernstein, "The end of white supremacy"

Mike Potemra at the Corner, "The View From Harlem, worth quoting:
Why was I, a John McCain voter, there [at the Obama celebration in Harlem]? A bit of personal history. I was born in 1964, and on the day I was born the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Prince Edward County in Virginia had to reopen its public schools. The county had closed the schools because they decided it was better to have no public schools at all than to have to admit black kids into them. Here we are, just 44 years later, with an African-American president, a president elected with the electoral votes of that very same Commonwealth of Virginia.

I voted for John McCain because I admire him immensely as a person, and agree with him on many more issues than I do with Senator Obama. And I ask a rhetorical question: Can we McCain voters, without embarrassment, shed a tear of patriotic joy about the historic significance of what just happened? And I offer a short, rhetorical answer.

Yes, we can.

[Update:] Will Wilkinson, "One night of romance"

Scattered thoughts on the day after:

I keep seeing the phrase "record turnout" thrown around. It's not true. I don't think turnout is an end in itself, and don't think that lower turnout signals an unhealthier democracy. But those who disagree shouldn't then take it on faith that an inspirational candidate automatically translated into higher turnout. It appears that turnout will be lower both in absolute terms and as a proportion of the electorate than in 2004. McCain got about 7 million fewer votes than Bush; Obama got about 3 million more than Kerry. The disspiritedness and disillusionment of Republicans and Republican-leaning Independents mattered, a lot. A Republican base, faced with the catastrophic failure of a presidency they had rooted for and the nomination of a candidate they'd always disliked, stayed home-- not in droves but not in trickles either. [Update: This Politico story is claiming turnout of 130 million, but I don't see how to square that with any other reported numbers.]

Ted Stevens is winning? That's repulsive. And it's a very bad omen for the rebuilding of a sane, honest, principled Republican Party that a smart decent guy like John Sununu got thumped while Ted Stevens got reelected. More broadly, the extinction of New England Republicanism seems to me a bad thing-- the GOP that is the regional party of the resentful South is a particularly unattractive opposition party. On the other hand, it's a wonderful thing that (apparently) three states of the Confederacy voted for Obama.

Yay for the marijuana referenda, boo for the marriage referenda-- and I really hope that California Prop 8 isn't construed retroactively so as to annul existing marriages.

The Bob Barr campaign was a mess, and by any reasonable measure the enterprise of trying to advance libertarian ideas with third-party presidential candidates seems overdue for retirement. (The teenage LP activist who still lives in my memory is very angry at me for writing that sentence.) But I can't help it-- I'm pleased to see Barr's vote exceed the two-party gap in an important state that then tilted Democratic, North Carolina. (And southern Libertarians are traditionally more likely to be Republican voters otherwise, so it's very plausible that Barr tipped the state.) That does at least send a tiny little but audible signal to the Republicans that the big-spending, trade-undermining, civil-liberties-attacking path of the Bush years cost them some small-government voters who they can't take for granted.

Twenty years ago I hadn't heard of Barack Obama, so I don't have twenty years worth of belief that he could never be president to overcome. Twenty years ago I very much had heard of Joe Biden, and watching the scene in Grant Park on TV my brain kept skipping a beat at seeing him up there. I have twenty years worth of accumulated belief that he was never rising above his Senate seat, and changing that belief is taking some work.

While I think Obama will be more purely his own man and less the product of competing pressure groups on his staff than any president since, well, let's say LBJ, I'm still very happy to hear of the Rahm Emanuel invitation. It's good news for the fight to save NAFTA from Obama's Ohio primary rhetoric, since Emanuel was one of the champions of NAFTA ratification in 1993.

I hear a lot of commentary about Obama seeming subdued last night, all of it at least mildly negative but noting that it's understandable less than 24 hours after the death of his grandmother. I have to say that I liked it; I like it when he's serious and sober and professorial, which is a lot of the time. (I didn't understand "professorial" being used as a term of abuse after the third debate.) Though it's hard to rank Obama and Bill Clinton as political orators, I enjoy listening to Obama more, in large part because of his calm seriousness. When Clinton feels someone's pain, he increases mine. His smile and warmth can occasionally be infectious but often strike me as flippant or self-satisfied. I loved Clinton's 2004 convention address, but always hated watching his State of the Union talks and eventually just quit doing so; and in presidential debates he always left me feeling like I was being lied to even when I wasn't. (All of this is totally compatible with the praise I sometimes heap on the Clinton presidency, the Clinton years, and the Clinton brand of New Democratic politics, by the way.) The happiness of the sneaky kid who's getting away with something never seemed far from him-- except when he exploded in anger at not getting away with something. The contrast between Clinton's heat and Obama's cool is already a commonplace, but it's true, and I'm much more at ease with Obama's style.

Moreover, to be sober about the duties and responsibilities that are now his seems entirely in order.