This was a landslide, bottom line.
According to CNN, Barack Obama won 349 Electoral Votes to John McCain’s 163. Barack Obama also came away with 52% of the popular vote to McCain’s 48% (roughly 58 million to 52 million, respectively). Last night’s victory was not only a victory for Barack Obama, or the Democratic party, but it was a victory for America. It was also a victory for the world. Finally, the American people have repudiated the Bush administration and have embraced Obama’s message of change. We will see in the next few months how that change will look.
As President-Elect Obama begins his transition into the White House, he faces tremendous challenges. In his acceptance speech last night, he acknowledged that it will take time to overcome all the challenges– it will take more than one year, and more than one term, to overcome all the challenges that he will face as President. The premier challenge, no doubt, will be the failing economy. He will also have to move quickly to meet his promise of resolving the Iraq war within the first 18 months of his term. In addition to that, he will need to tackle the Afghanistan war, which will require more troops, more money, and more co-operation from Pakistan. The biggest challenge, and most important challenge in that region, will be the Middle-East peace process, which has suffered greatly due to a non-existent U.S. role during the last eight years. Of course, there are a whole host of other domestic issues he has to face: health care, education reform, energy independence, and more. Those might have to be placed on the back-burner, unfortunately, until the economy levels off.
But Obama is off to a great start.
He’s already offered the job of Chief of staff to former Clinton aide and Illinois Rep. Rahm Emmanuel. Robert Kennedy Jr., a leading environmental activist, has offered his help to the President-Elect, as has John McCain and a whole host of former and current government officials, including former Clinton Chief of Staff John Podesta, Colin Powell (who has already said he would not serve in an Obama administration), John Kerry, Chuck Hagel, and many more. Obama has a whole range of people to choose from when he starts to appoint cabinet members. One thing is for sure: if he is serious about reaching across party lines, then he needs to include Republicans in his cabinet. Otherwise, those promises will be just as hollow as when President-Elect George W. Bush made them.
As Obama gears up for January 20, 2009, the GOP and John McCain are gearing up for civil war.
This election was a repudiation of President Bush, but it was also a repudiation of the GOP brand. Now that the election is over, the party needs to turn inwards and reflect upon its mistakes. It has to change and adapt to the new political environment if it wants to survive. If it does not, then the GOP will find itself in exile for years and years to come. The new task is to find a new leader and to find the courage to work with Democrats in congress. Otherwise, they will find themselves in the role of obstructionists without a direction.
One such leader might very well be Sarah Palin. Many GOP insiders reject the notion out of hand, but there are party members who love the idea of Palin being the new voice of the party.
Of those who reject Palin are George Will and Kathleen Parker. They view her as unready, unknowledgeable, and unpopular. The basis for these claims stems from her less than stellar interviews and her performance on the campaign trail. Others, such as Laura Ingram and Sean Hannity, think that she is a person who can run in 2012, effectively putting her at the head of the party as John McCain’s defeat (and the defeat of several GOP Senators and Representatives) has created a power vacuum.
In the last day or so the quiet grumblings between Palin and McCain aides has exploded onto the national stage. McCain aides have already begun the process of scapegoating Palin. Before the election, anonymous McCain aides described Palin as a “rogue” and “diva”, who was not absorbing the complex policy issues. Palin, for her part, has been complaining that the McCain camp was keeping her from being herself and keeping her from participating in interviews. The McCain camp simply responded, essentially, the few interviews she had were horrific enough– imagine dozens of those kinds of interviews. Their argument basically came down to damage control. Which begs the question– Well, then why the hell did you pick her?
John McCain now has the chance to spend more time with his family, as Sarah Palin begins to prepare for a possible 2012 run, America, and the world, prepares for an Obama administration.
The world over has been celebrating the Obama win. It signals to the world that the U.S. is back. We’re ready to be that beacon of hope, that shining city on a hill, once again. Iran has expressed it’s congratulations and hope that Obama will engage them in direct diplomacy, adding “The president-elect has promised changes in policies. There is a capacity for the improvement of ties between America and Iran if Obama pursues his campaign promises, including not confronting other countries as Bush did in Iraq and Afghanistan, and also concentrating on America’s state matters and removing the American people’s concerns”; French PM Sarkozy spoke glowingly of President-Elect Obama: “With the world in turmoil and doubt, the American people, faithful to the values that have always defined America’s identity, have expressed with force their faith in progress and the future. At a time when we must face huge challenges together, your election has raised enormous hope in France, in Europe and beyond”; Afghanistan’s President Hamid Karzai applauded Obama’s vitory, yet added that he would like to see the killing of Afghanistan’s civilians halted; Britain’s PM said, “Barack Obama ran an inspirational campaign, energising politics with his progressive values and his vision for the future. I know Barack Obama and we share many values. We both have determination to show that government can act to help people fairly through these difficult times facing the global economy”; Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel said, “I offer you my heartfelt congratulations on your historic victory in the presidential election. The world faces significant challenges at the start of your term. I am convinced that Europe and the United States will work closely and in a spirit of mutual trust together to confront new dangers and risks and will seize the opportunities presented by our global world”; Kevin Rudd, Australia’s PM, added that “Senator Obama’s message of hope is not just for America’s future, it is also a message of hope for the world as well. A world which is now in many respects fearful for its future”; Israel’s FM Tzip Livni said, cautiously, “Israel expects the close strategic cooperation with the new administration, president and Congress will continue along with the continued strengthening of the special and unshakeable special relationship between the two countries”; and an aide to Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian Authority’s President, said, “We hope the president-elect in the United States will stay the course and would continue the U.S. engagement in the peace process without delay. We hope the two-state vision would be transferred from a vision to a realistic track immediately.”
Obama’s got a huge mess before him and he’s going to act fast, in a manner reminiscent of FDR’s first 100 days. For those people who claim Obama is a radical, or is dangerous for our country, think about this: He has inherited Bush’s mess and does not want to be stuck with the blame by making it worse, so he will do everything in his power to solve these problems. Another factor to keep in mind is the fact that he is this nation’s first African-American President. If he fails to provide effective leadership, or is too radical, then he will have effectively ruined any possible hope for another African-American president, or any other minority, for that minority. He has the eyes of the world upon him, but he also has the burden of history on his back. He cannot fail and he cannot do anything to compromise his legacy as the first African-American President.
Expect him to find his way towards unity and compromise. Also, expect him to use restraint and caution in his decisions– he is not impetuous or spontaneous. He will be deliberate and thoughtful with every decision. As Colin Powell said today in an interview, we have no reason to be worried about an Obama administration.