A Look Backward
Years from now, people in all areas of study will marvel over the 2008 elections, much as they do now about the Kennedy/Nixon campaign. There is little doubt that this election has been compelling enough to involve most of the nation in an area, politics, that most people shun in normal conversation, let alone in deep thought. The least interesting time segment has been the last two weeks of the election, with no major news stories breaking about the election, and both candidates left up to their own charisma to drive the independent battleground states to their points of view.
I am still in a bit of awe that a 2-year US Senator can be seriously thought of as a ‘seasoned, ready to lead’ candidate for the President. Barack Obama, by all accounts, has conducted one of the most effective nomination campaigns, knocking off Hillary Clinton who wasn’t expected to encounter ANY difficulty in securing the nomination. During this nomination process, Obama’s future Vice President choice, Joe Biden, called Obama ‘inexperienced, not ready to lead.’ The scholars will discuss exactly how Hillary was defeated by Obama in a nomination run that was every bit as gripping as any Presidential election in memory.
John McCain, a maverick highly respected both parties, but also chock full of political enemies because he refused to tow a strict Republican partisan line. His campaign was clean, but lacked force of conviction. He constantly tried to defend that he ‘wasn’t George Bush.’ Both McCain and Obama performed in a very respectable gentlemanly manner, unusual for the normal GOTCHA politics of the past elections. Instead, the media became Obama’s attack dog: overplaying its hand constantly on GOTCHA stories about the Republicans, while virtually ignoring every negative story about Obama, with the possible exception of the Reverend Wright saga. At the end of the campaign, polls showed that over 70% of the Obama media stories were positive in nature, while McCain only had 25% of his stories being portrayed as positive. Had McCain run a flawed campaign, full of gaffes and mistakes, this 25% might be plausible, but he didn’t make those mistakes.
The public was hungry for information on Obama, and when they heard the questionable associations between Obama and his peers, they ignored them. The media ignored them except to acknowledge them long enough to contradict any Republican talking points on them. McCain was mildly chastised for his marriages and for the Keating Five. Obama had no less than 7 friends who had questionable morals: Tony Rezko (convict, campaign manager), Reverend Wright, Reverend Flagler, Bill Ayres (political 60’s terrorist), Jessie Jackson, Mayor Daly, Franklin Raines (Freddie Mac CEO). All, except for Daly, were thrown under the bus by Obama, who refused to acknowledge that he was close to any of them. Somehow, the public believed it. I think it was because the media defended Obama in this charade. Tell people 70 times that someone is good, they’ll believe it, finally.
Obama was also listed as the ‘2nd most Liberal’ in Congress. For him to win any national election, he would have to move more toward the center, and he did quickly in the beginning of the campaign. He even endorsed a death-penalty, endorsed Justice Scalia, and supported the domestic surveillance Telecom legislation. It was hard to understand Obama's insistence he would take only federal funds in the general election, until it was followed by his decision to rake in as many millions from contributors as he could. In the final week, he dropped $3 million on a massive 30 minute infomercial that had essentially no effect on the public that could be measured. Altogether, he raised $450 million.
McCain also moved more toward the center (or was it ‘farther away from Bush?.) He softened his stance on ecology, calling for more oil exploration thru drilling. He was a huge advocate for financial deregulation, but when the Fannie/Freddie crisis hit, he supported a huge bailout and more oversight. McCain also didn’t support Bush’s tax cuts and voted against them initially, but later on voted to a) extend them and b) supported the cuts verbally.
Obama had a great opportunity to utilize Hillary’s base by asking her to fill his VP slot, but didn’t do it. I wonder whether poli-sci pundits later will call this Obama’s biggest campaign mistake. He virtually ignored her after the nomination was secured and destroyed Hillary’s appeal as a future candidate as well. It should be noted, however, that the public was understandably skeptical of 12 years of Bush’s, and 12 years or more of Clintons running the White House and country. Maybe it was time for a complete change; only time will tell.
History will gush over the charisma and wonderful speech-making from Obama. They will fall asleep listening to tapes of showing ‘charisma’ of McCain. They will point to the era as ripe for a candidate of ‘change’ and how perfectly the first African-American Presidential nominee presented the emotional appeal. Neither candidate scored many points on ‘technical details’ of their plans. Obama learned how not to bore his listeners with details.
The final turning point of the election campaign was not Iraq, like it was predicted to be. Instead, it was the partial collapse of the economy, which fell into Obama’s lap like voting manna from heaven. McCain stumbles in an effort to act Presidential and react swiftly, but instead is perceived as an opportunistic flip-flopper rushing back to the Senate to ‘draw the Republican Party back together in a moment of crisis.’ I believe this was the ‘jump-the-shark’ moment when the McCain backslide was inevitable. Even his VP selection of Sarah Palin didn’t seem to help him the final days, although she energized the campaign early on.
Foreign countries, used to the United States replacing complete foreign policy with the election of new Presidents every 4-8 years, were mesmerized by every aspect of both the election, and watched Obama’s rise to power. They saw him as a multi-cultural leader who best exemplified the European ideals more than McCain or Bush, or Reagan.
All that is left now is for the final tallies, and for all the drama, the actual election will not lie in the voters hands. Why? Because the popular vote doesn’t elect the president, the electoral college does in a winner-take-all proposition. As a matter of fact, Al Gore won the popular vote in the 2000 election, but lost the entire election on electoral votes. In a strange twist of fate, an election that will energize millions of voters to actually cast their votes (only 45% of registered voters normally vote nationally), will actually have no effect or say on who will be the next President.
It’s a sad commentary on our adherence to an out of date Constitutional Article (number 15.) The Democrats have a form of the electoral college using Super Delegates during their nomination procedure. They were supposed to vote the way their constituents in their voting area voted during the Primaries. But some of them didn’t. There is no guarantee the Electoral college members will follow their state’s voter results either.
If and when (win?) Obama secures the Presidential Election, he will join a Democratic Majority in both the House and Senate, virtually wiping out the two-party system for the duration of his term.
11/1/08 Jeff Feezle
[This message has been edited by threadbear (11-03-2008 04:56 PM).]