Nov 5, 2008

It's Finally Over, and Yet, Just Beginning...

picture h/t

This election is finally over, and I have returned to blog. It looks like my neighbor, Barack Obama, will be the new president and that it will now be completely impossible to travel on 51st St. between Drexel and Kimbark, once the Secret Service has its way.

Some thoughts:

It is very exciting, for anyone of any political stripe, that America has passed this symbolic threshold. Having someone with his story, a true 'melting pot' in human form, could only happen here. In that sense, I'm very proud both of him and in the American people for taking this step.

McCain was gracious in his exit. His speech was beautifully written and delivered, and he clearly meant it. That's what made John McCain so impressive in the first place. It's what will make him more than a fleeting blip in American history. I think this line should be repeated and quoted often:
I would not be an American worthy of the name should I regret a fate that has allowed me the extraordinary privilege of serving this country for a half a century. Today, I was a candidate for the highest office in the country I love so much. And tonight, I remain her servant. That is blessing enough for anyone.

Now the question will be what happens in an Obama presidency. For two years now, he's been talking about 'change,' without defining it well. He needs to do so. Appointing Rahm Emanuel is not very promising, since he about as bitingly partisan as it gets. What will be his priorities upon taking office? Will he extend his theme of unity into a Cabinet and Administration through thoughtful, Republican (and of course, Democratic) appointees? I trust that he will. I hope that he will.

Today, I think, it was clear that President Bush is tired and ready to be done. In his congratulations of Obama, he was also honest and gracious. I think he'll give Obama an easy transition (having experienced a difficult one between himself and President Clinton), which would be an honorable exit. I hope Obama treats him with civility and respect, since he deserves as much. He's been abused by all sides for years and will continue to be, I'm sure, for the early months of an Obama presidency. That would be a shame. He's the past now, and Obama is the future.

It's good for America that Democrats did not win a filibuster-proof Senate. The Wall Street Journal mentioned a few months ago that the 'world's greatest deliberative body' tend to 'go on binges' when one party has that much power. With Nancy Pelosi's iron grip on the House, it is good that Harry Reid doesn't get one as well. It appears that Norm Coleman beat Al Franken in Minnesota (thank heavens), though a recount will tell us in a week or so. Gordon Smith may have held onto Oregon, though only 75% of the returns have come in as of this writing. Saxy Chambliss has a runoff in Georgia on his hands. He will likely win that, since the vote that turned out for Obama won't be there in as large numbers as on Election Day.

All in all, though an electoral rout, when it comes to the House, Senate, and popular vote, Republicans are in a similar position to Democrats in 2004 (which left them with a 55-45 Senate Minority, a 232-202 House minority, and a 52%-47% loss for president). Obama won by about the same margin (perhaps 53%-46%). The House will be more strongly Democratic (roughly 252-182, maybe a little more). That doesn't really affect legislation, however, since House rules are so restrictive that a simple but strong 5-vote majority can limit debate. The Senate will be roughly 56-44 for Democrats. A few liberal Republicans (Olympia Snowe, Arlen Specter, et. al.) could help Dems with cloture, but that will require Harry Reid to give in a little bit. Joe Lieberman will likely be stripped of his chairmanship. Maybe he'll switch over to the Republican side to join his friends, Sens. McCain and Graham. What I'm saying is that, though it was a bloodbath of sorts, it is not the end for Republicans. It's a Chancellorsville, not a Gettysburg; a rout, but not a nail in the coffin.

So, I offer my (insignificant) congratulations to Senator, now President-Elect, Obama and Senator, now Vice President-Elect, Joe Biden.

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