The 2008 Election is over. Barack Obama has been elected the next President of the United States of America in a convincing victory over John McCain, Ralph Nader, Bob Barr, Cynthia McKinney, John Joseph Polacheck and the many others who ran for the office. It is, without a doubt, a historic election. At the moment that the television informed me that Obama had been elected as the first African-American president, I could not help but think how my Irish Catholic grandparents must have felt when John F. Kennedy was elected in 1960.
Obama is, as we speak, preparing to begin his administration. There are millions of people who voted for him who are still jubilant over his election victory. I don’t want to begrudge anyone savoring this moment, but I wanted to put a few thoughts out there while they are still fresh.
I count myself as one of the people who cast their vote for Obama. I also voted for him in the Washington Democratic caucus. During the election season, however, I remained undecided, and still like to think of myself as an independent voter. I gave consideration to McCain, Nader, and Barr at various times. This vote for a major party candidate is my first in the four presidential elections I have been able to participate in. In 1996, 2000, and 2004, I did not believe that either major party candidate deserved my vote and I voted instead “on principle,” which could also be construed as “throwing my vote away.” I felt that doing this gave me the ability to criticize both sides and their excesses and shortcomings.
Ultimately, my decision came down to the content of the character of both men. During the so-called bailout crisis, both Senators voted for the bill. I thought that this was a bad idea, but I understand why they had to vote for it. During the debate of the bill, McCain “suspended” his campaign and called on Obama to postpone the debate until the crisis was resolved. Obama withheld comment on the crisis until he understood what the Bush, Jr. administration was proposing. It struck me at the time that Obama’s reaction was much more level-headed, intelligent, and rational. These are the qualities that I want in a President. While I may not agree with Obama on all things, I think that he will approach problems and crises in a responsible manner.
One thing that really bothered me during the campaign was how many people seemed to look at electing Obama as the solution to every problem facing this country. Bush, Jr. helped to create many of the problems, but he did not create all of them. It took us a long time to get here and it will take awhile to get us out, and in the meantime, a bunch of new problems will pop up. I fear that a lot of the same people who have spent the last eight years foaming at the mouth and hating everything Bush, Jr. has done will stop protesting. Just because someone who represents your party is in the White House doesn’t mean you should stop questioning what is going on. A lot of the same people who were cheering on Bush, Jr.’s every move the last eight years will now probably switch to blindly opposing all of Obama’s decisions just because he belongs to the wrong party. Will Obama dismantle Homeland Security and the TSA and stop warrantless spying on American citizens? Probably not, but one can hope, at least for the moment.
My hope for the next few weeks and the next four years is that everyone calms down a bit and approaches the Obama presidency with realistic expectations. He is not going to fix everything, nor he is going to deliberately destroy the country. I do not believe that anyone who seeks and becomes President wants to make the country a worse place to live. Even if I do not agree with their decisions, they are doing what they think is the right thing to do. I hope that the same people who were angry for the last eight years don’t give Obama a free pass on everything that he does, and that the people who have supported the current president don’t automatically condemn his decisions. Obama tried, and for the most part, was successful in waging a campaign that was free of the BS that has surrounded recent elections. Here’s to hoping that we can have more mature and rational discourse while we attempt to create solutions together during the next four years.