Wednesday, November 05, 2008

A Class Act

Today we awake with a new President-elect, Barack Obama.

Although I was and am a McCain supporter, I'm almost glad that he lost this election, if for no other reason than to show the Democrats how it's done.

Although there was arguably cause for bitterness, given many thousands of questionable voter registrations by groups such as ACORN, voter intimidation at the polls, etc. McCain chose not to whine and cry about his defeat as did the last two Democrat contenders. He did not drag it through the courts to the detriment of our country as did Gore and Kerry, but conceded with grace and dignity. He truly does put "Country First". John McCain truly is a class act.

Before I take McCain's advice and get behind the new President, I'd like to make some observations.

First, this election is proof that remnants of racism are alive and well in the United States of America. But the source is unexpected. There is no doubt whatsoever that Obama was elected with unprecedented support from the white community, and no one would argue that these constituents voted for Obama simply because he is black. At least we all hope that didn't happen, and that the issues took precedence. There is also no doubt whatsoever that he was elected by many black voters because he is black, just as some white voters voted against him because he is black. I think that's a shame for two reasons.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, Obama is every bit as white as he is black. If there's anyone on Earth who can claim to transcend race -- to claim humanity over race -- it is he, and yet he chose to pass up that opportunity. That's a shame.

Also, As Dr. King said, "I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character." Those people who voted because of color, either primarily or incidentally, are not yet ready for that day. And that's a shame. But it's not a terrible shame, because the novelty of this event provides some measure of excuse. The next time a candidate runs and mention is made of his race, we should say, "so what?" And we should look back on past candidates like Jesse Jackson and Alan Keyes (a favorite of mine) with 20/20 hindsight and be able to admit that they did not lose "because they were black", but because they weren't very good candidates to start with. And we should look with some satisfaction that voting patterns were not significantly different with regard to this candidate: rural areas generally voted Republican and urbanites generally voted Democrat, just as they always have. That Obama's support cut across demographics brings us one step closer to that dream.
Second, I still have reservations about Obama's judgement. He is, if nothing else, a poor judge of character, and reckless in his associations, whether we're talking about William Ayers, the Reverend Jeremiah Wright, or the misguided ACORN that has promoted fraud in the name of community activism. Nevertheless, these are reservations based on his associations of other people of questionable character, and it does not necessarily follow that Obama is of questionable character himself. The plain fact is that we know very little of Obama's character because we have never seen him when he is not campaigning. He has no track record, so at this time we have to give him the benefit of the doubt.

Third, I have reservations about Obama's promises. His purported "tax cut" is nothing of the kind. It is money given to people who pay no income taxes at all. After the fact, his campaign explained that we're talking about a rebate of payroll taxes. Folks, what this means is that he is dipping into Social Security taxes, plain and simple. And we know that this is fiscally reckless, and if he'd been man enough to own up to it in the campaign. Though he calls it a "tax cut", the only way to make it work without bankrupting Social Security is to replenish the money out of the general fund, and that amounts to EXACTLY what the Republicans alleged... that it's a simple re-distribution of funds. It's pandering. It's a bribe.

But bribes work, in the short term. I saw an interview with an Obama supporter who claimed she was excited by an Obama presidency because, "I won't have to worry about my house payment or my car payment no more." And she's not alone: here's another one who says almost the same thing (this one was saved for posterity on YouTube). These people think they elected Santa Claus. I can imagine no one on this planet who will be more disillusioned and pissed off this time next year. What happens to the love when these voters are scorned?

The sort of promises that lead to these reactions are nothing new. It's called pandering. And it rarely works out in the long term. The last president that offered "a chicken in every pot" was Herbert Hoover. And we know how that worked out. But once again, Obama has no track record, so we are all destined to a future of surprises, whether our expectations are met or not.

In his victory speech, Obama tries to manage these expectations, saying that change may not happen in the first year or the first term. It's a far cry from a campaign in which the mere mention of his candidacy slowed the rising of the oceans and hastened the healing of the planet. Nevertheless, he will have to deliver something, or there will be no second term.

Finally, I have reservations about what will happen in terms of foreign policy. I strongly suspect that Obama will discover what Carter and Clinton did... that talk is cheap, and much of our foreign policy is dictated by the circumstances we find ourselves in. Does anyone really believe that George Bush invited or wanted the attacks of 9/11? That he wants to stay in Iraq and Afghanistan any longer than necessary? If so, they are fools. No president wishes such a thing upon himself or his country. We all agree that we should bring the war to a close... the only disagreement is on how that should be done, and how we should define "necessary." I don't believe that Barack Obama will intentionally screw up our foreign policy, nor do I believe he will be the unmitigated disaster that was Jimmy Carter. He will do his best, and partly this is because he now has to fill the rather large set of shoes he created for himself.

So those are my reservations. To overcome those reservations, and with no supermajority in Congress, Obama will have to "reach across the aisle", and that means that we need to reach back. We don't want failure anymore than he does. Especially given his near total lack of experience, and our experience with similarly naive presidents in the past, this is a case where we need to get behind the President and offer him our full support... and I don't mean "support" in the sense of cheerleading.