Post-Mortem

So, America has elected its next President, its next Vice President, 35 Senators, 435 members of the House of Representatives, and thousands of state and local officers. We did it, again, without violence or bloodshed, with a minimum of intimidation, with a minimum of fraud, and, in general, with great dignity. There can be no doubt that the People have spoken. There can be no doubt that skin color no longer determines who may or may not participate in in our common public life, or at what level. We elected a man for what he believes and what he says, not for what he looks like, and that is, indeed, a milestone. Congratulations to America for those accomplishments.

Now, it will be no surprise to anyone who reads my musings regularly (or has read the site description at the top of each page) that I wish the outcome had been a different one ideologically. I did not and do not care about the race or gender of any candidate for any office, but I care very much what he or she says and thinks. If the latter are our primary concerns, this election was a clear defeat for conservatives. As a conservative, I think that constitutes a loss for the nation. Of course, I don’t think the Republican Party ever had much chance of holding ground in this election. For that matter, classical conservatives (as opposed to neocons) had even less. We were hoping for a better result, not an excellent one. Alas, it was not to be.

CNN tells me the U.S. chooses “change.” It’s not clear to me, yet – or, indeed, probably to anyone – just what change America collectively thinks it will get, much less what it will actually get. That said, change is coming. Indeed, in troubled times of war, economic turmoil – the worst of which I sincerely doubt is over – political division, and a deep moral divide on countless issues, change is inevitable. There was never any question that the United States of America will be different in 2012 from what it is in 2008. The world changes fast enough on its own to guarantee that. The question is, given that we can collectively control some of that change, what do we do with that power, which we have now entrusted in President-Elect Barack Hussein Obama? We will start hearing and seeing the answer today, I suspect.

I have one final thought I want to share in this election wrap-up. One of the common responses to the election and re-election of President George W. Bush was to say, “Well, he’s not my President.” Indeed, already, some are responding that way to Obama; others are embracing him as “my” President (Senator McCain took the latter approach). Here is my thought on this topic: George Bush is not my President, nor will Senator Obama be. Nor was any of Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush, Ronald Reagan, or Jimmy Carter. I don’t have a President, and never will.

We, the People of the United States of America, we have a President, and we have elected a new one. This Nation must stand or fall as one. The trend of claiming and disowning particular officeholders based on their political affiliations is, I think, an extremely dangerous one. Our nation is defined in large part by a simple phrase: e pluribus unum, “out of many, one.” We had better take hold of that concept, before we produce many from the one People and one Nation we have inherited. And we had better all own this new President and claim him not as “mine” or “theirs,” but as “ours.” We need to hold him – and all who claimed victory last night – accountable to the People for what our government does in the next four years.

Members of the military have a time-honored saying: “We salute the rank, not the man.” Likewise, we – all of us – can and should honor the President and the presidency of this nation, regardless of upon whom that burden rests.

We have a President. We have a Nation. We are a People. Let us celebrate that, and let us see if we can unite in respecting those institutions and working in and through them for another four years, so that we still have them at that time.

3 Replies to “Post-Mortem”

  1. First off, before I start disagreeing with you, great post.

    I think this election will actually end up a gain for conservatives, at least for the true conservatives (hopefully not so much for the neocons). It will be like ’00 for the Democrats. It’s time for them (and by “them” I mean all Republicans, which right now is a rather nebulous group) to decide what their party is going to stand for. Are they a party of evangelicals who believe the government should uphold the Bible over the Constitution, are they neocons spreading the Bush Doctrine, are they the Rockefeller Republicans of yore- fiscally conservative, small government types? I’m not sure they can be all of them and win an election. McCain pandered to the far religious right and lost a lot of people in the middle, if he’d stayed more moderate, would the religious right have come out and voted for him anyway? I don’t know and I have a feeling there’s about to be a bunch of talking heads dissecting that, but do I think the party will regroup and find an identity, they are way too good at politics not to do so. And I hope that voice isn’t as far right as Palin’s or Huckabee’s because deep down I’m a conservative, I just don’t like the package in which it’s currently being presented.

    [And as an aside, one of the things that pissed me off the most about this election was the small town America is better than big town America, elites (and by that they seem to mean the highly educated) are bad, plumbers should be president crap. I don’t think making “elite” a bad word is a good message to be sending out to the American people, and if anyone is “elite” it’s an heiress and a man who legacied into Annapolis. I know this has nothing to do with your points, but seriously, it was annoying.]

  2. Thanks for the comment and the compliment, Lag Liv.

    I know we disagree on most or all of the major issues, but let me say you do raise some very good points and good questions. The way I see it, your overarching point is that the Republican Party is currently in identity-crisis mode. I think that’s fair, but I also think the same still applies to the Democratic Party. That is, both parties are now conglomerates representing lots of very different ideologies. In fact, given the popularity of President Bush and the timing of this election (economic meltdown and two unpopular, but ongoing, military conflicts), I think the fact that such a charismatic and popular candidate won by only a 53-46 margin is testimony to how divided and conflicted both parties are. Lots of people who are dissatisfied with Bush were willing to vote for McCain, and lots of (H.) Clinton Democrats chose not to support the party nominee. These facts confirm for me not only that there are groups competing for the heart of the GOP, but also that the Democrats were not able to pull together as compelling a coalition as we might expect under the circumstances.

    So, what of the GOP? The neocons have definitely held sway for a while, now. Many Republicans don’t feel like their party is truly a conservative one, right now, at least not in the sense of being conservative like Reagan, like Kirk, or like Buckley. In short, the argument is that the party has abandoned the principles which gave it definition and purpose and which brought it so much success in the twentieth century. I think that’s basically correct. I’m as curious as anyone to see what the GOP makes of itself; it’s not clear if it can remain a party that can appeal to classical conservatives, neocons, libertarians, and enough moderates to win elections. I wonder, too, though, if the Democrats can stay united once they take the reins again and have to get down to picking and enacting specific legislation.

    As for the other points you raise, I have two quick responses. First, I don’t think more than a very tiny handful of people actually want a government which elevates religion of any variety over the Constitution. I don’t want that, nor do most of the members of the religious right whom I know. The fact that the religious right is, well, on the right I think sometimes results in over-coverage of the extreme elements and obscures who the vast majority of that group is and what they stand for.

    My second point is this: I have to pick on the “plumbers should be president crap.” I think the way Joe Wurzelbacher’s brief appearance on the national scene was handled was pathetic. By that, I mean to criticize both parties, both candidates, and above all the press. Given that economic issues ended up dominating the general election, one would have hoped we could have a real discussion about tax policy and what it means for the American Dream. That discussion never happened, because the McCain camp too eagerly exploited a bad example, the Obama camp dodged the questions that example did raise, and the media spent its time digging for dirt on a would-be business owner, rather than asking about the policies in question – the only relevant component in the debate, to begin with.

    In short, I think the biggest disgrace of this election is this: Americans are facing potentially the biggest financial meltdown in almost eighty years, if not in the nation’s history, and it was not discussed in a deep and meaningful way. The implosion of credit is likely to get worse before it can get better, and this means the next President’s policy choices will have unusual force, for better or for worse. Both candidates and the media resorted to vague generalities and sound bites, when we really needed to get specifics and decide, as a nation, what, if indeed anything, the government should actively do to fix this mess. I think we all got cheated out of that.

    Anyway, sorry to ramble on. Thanks for the comment!

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