THE MORNING AFTER: Despite the rush of polls in the final days, nobody was more surprised by the size of Barack Obama's victory as I was. With vivid memories of the 2000 and 2004 elections, I winced when MSNBC political analyst Chuck Todd in mid-evening examined some voting figures and said, "It's beginning to look like 2000 and 2004." Shortly thereafter a funny thing happened to the equation: Ohio turned over its 20 electoral votes to Obama and the 7 million vote rout of McCain was on in an election that was widely viewed around the world. The influential Italian newspaper, La Repubblica, rushed into print with a big quirky headline that declared, "Obama presidente, l'America cambia pelle". (President Obama, America changes skin) The editors probably thought better of it and soon replaced it with "Obama presidente, E un altra America". (President Obama, it is another America." )
The point is, Europeans care deeply about what happens in our politics, which is a kind of flattery that we do not extend to them. I can't imagine any American newspaper running a big headline on front page recording a victory by Silvio Berlusconi.
So, some bleary-eyed random thoughts:
As the New York Times noted this morning, the hard work now begins. Considering the profoundly ingrained mess at home and around the world, it is fair to ask why anybody would work a couple years for a job that is fraught with so many obstacles. In Obama's case, it may be a major test of the irresistible force vs. the immovable object. Let's hope not.
For the Republican Party, when will it wise up to the fact that its "base" represents no more than 25 pct. of the electorate; I thought it might have learned that much in 2006 when Ken Blackwell, a social conservative who claimed the support of a sea of ministers, was pummeled in Ohio's gubernatorial contest by Ted Strickland, who kept his own ministerial background out of view.
More bad news for the aging GOP: two-thirds of the voters under 30 years old cast ballots for Obama. The Republicans' farm system is still mostly tied to senior citizens and rurals. Where, one might ask, would Obama have ended up in the party primaries if he had been a Republican?
As for McCain, his finest moment came in the somber half-light of his concession speech; for once he seemed to be dictating his own conscience rather than the orchestrated cliches that misfired time and again. His endless insistence during the campaign that he would curb lobbyists and veto earmarks was intellectually dishonest, to say the least, inasmuch as his campaign manager, Rick Davis, has been paid $2 million as a lobbyist to build a firewall around Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac against regulation. And what of Charlie Black, his senior advisor, who served well as a lobbyist for Ahmad Chalabi, the Iraqi exile who led us into Iraq with his misinformation camapaign? So now McCain will return to the Senate and his advisors will return for their big loaves of daily bread on K Street.
As for Sarah Palin, one of McCain's horrendous campaign decisions (with plenty of nudging from his advisors) she can go back to Alaska to prepare for her 2012 presidential campaign. No one up there will blame her for McCain's defeat. Alaska is a numb politically isolated state that even sent a convicted felon back to the U.S. Senate yesterday.
Oh, George Bush and Dick Cheney? I'm sure there are some back doors at the White House where both could slip out in the middle of the night with all of their cronies and not be seen again. I never thought Bush's two terms would ever end. But we're getting close. As of today, 76 more days, and as Gerald Ford declared upon succeeding Richard Nixon: "Our national nightmare is over."
Organizationally, there might have been a strong hint of the outcome when McCain called to Joe the Plumber in the crowd and Joe wasn't there. I have a hunch that would not have happened with Obama's ground troops.
As for me, I'm going for a long walk. My Steelers have a tough game on Sunday with Indianapolis and I want to figure out a game plan. Maybe I can call on Obama''s textbook-perfect organization to offer me some hints. On the other hand, we may all be too weary to do anything for... oh...three or four hours.