I dare say that most of America went to sleep knowing that Barack Obama was elected president last night. Yet we’ll wake up to a new reality in which a centuries-old racial barrier was overcome, one political party now controls the future of the nation, another must define what it offers to American, and many people are wondering what this change Barack Obama promised will do to them. If ever there was a day to lounge in bed an extra hour and contemplate our futures, November 5th, 2008 is it.
Barack Obama will, some ~75 days from now, find himself in President Bush’s shoes. He’ll have working majorities in both the House and the Senate, the momentum of his long campaign behind him, and the air of expectancy blowing about his honeymoon period, the first 100 days.
As Orson Buggeigh said, Mr. Obama will have to disappoint some of his most ardent supporters if he is to do what’s right for the country as a whole. I think he will do that, much to the dismay of the kids at the Daily Kos, etc., because it’s one thing to campaign and another to govern.
If he’s to leave any sort of meaningful legacy, Obama must deliver on the issue of health care. That issue, more than anything other than his own personal charisma, is what propelled him past John McCain. He articulated it forcefully and now he must make it happen. This won’t be easy, even with a submissive Congress, assuming that’s what it turns out to be.
Obama is clearly a neophyte with regard to national issues and his election does not change that. He needs the best possible help with regard to the economy and energy, the critical issues of the moment, and I suspect he will find his options somewhat more constrained than he imagined on the campaign trail.
“Drill baby, drill” may have been played sarcastically and successfully against McCain/Palin; nevertheless, it’s incumbent on Obama and the Congress to empower American companies to deliver energy solutions in every possible form, petroleum, LNG, nuclear, coal, and the wanna-be’s. He must do this despite the howls of protest and betrayal from the far left.
America and the west cannot go backwards industrially, commercially, or technologically. The only way to solve our problems, most of which originate with foreign energy dependence, is by moving ahead, pushing the envelope, making technological advances, and commercializing new energy sources. To get there we to use all resources currently available, respecting the environment when and where possible and doing what we must do to survive otherwise.
With regard to the economy it’s my hope that Mr. Obama will take it to the American people and tell the truth: that we’ve spent beyond our means, that we have to let government do less, that we cannot spend future generations’ income before it’s been earned, that not all wants can be satisfied and in fact not even all needs can be met for all people, that if a person wants to get ahead then he or she will have to dig deep, work hard, and sacrifice today for a better tomorrow.
That’s what we all want, a better tomorrow for our children, and it may take a Barack Obama addressing the nation from the Oval Office to shock the current generation of leaders into realizing that it simply cannot bankrupt a country to satisfy its own lust for consumption and expect to leave American strong for today’s children. Medicare and Social Security spending must be restrained, among other programs, and that must be said aloud by this president, even though it’s anathema to his party.
Similarly, Mr. Obama must follow through on America’s commitment to re-establish Iraq as a functional nation and to cleanse Afghanistan of its terrorist oppressors. Obama’s left-wing supporters expect him to pull troops out of these countries; they’ve demanded it for years. But he must not do so. Abandoning these nations to Islamic terrorists would not only waste the nearly $1T that’s been spent and grant the terrorists a huge propaganda victory, it would also be a complete abdication of the responsibility that America took on under George Bush.
It will be difficult for Mr. Obama to deal with Congress on these issues given the expectations of a homogenous government. Nancy Pelosi, et al, are practically salivating at the thought of promoting a greater liberal agenda. It’s up to Barack Obama to hold Congress in check so that what’s right for the country gets done.
Meanwhile, Republicans must search for a new definition of their party. George Bush’s presidency destroyed the GOP’s image in the eyes of liberal and independent voters alike by betraying the financial principles of restrained spending and balanced budgets.
Furthermore, Republicans must stop being the party of increased governmental bureaucracy, overseas imperialism, and domestic intrusiveness. President Bush overcommitted us in Iraq and we allowed the Congo and the Sudan to commit genocide while we were too busy to help. Our relations with our NATO allies are less than what they were before the Bush administration took over, and we’ve been reduced to routinely violating the principles of the Constitution by spying on each other’s email and phone conversations in hopes of snooping out terrorists in our midst while occasionally torturing the ones we do capture alive.
All of these things happened on the Republicans’ watch and while there have undoubtedly been good reasons for the compromises they had us make it is time for Republicans to reject non-essential elements of the Bush military/security expansion and restore the party to champion the causes of strong international relationships and respect for individual rights at home.
Will that be enough to restore the Republican Party in the eyes of voters? Frankly I doubt it. Democrats will be staking out the high ground on these issues for the foreseeable future and rightly so.
For Republicans to succeed, a new vision of individual rights, responsibilities, and opportunities must be articulated to voters in such a way that they understand the difference between Democrats’ comforting but ultimately unsustainable government programs and what we can do for ourselves if we simply apply ourselves to the opportunities that we’re given in this country.
After all, if a guy with a funny name like Barack Obama can be elected President of the United States, is there anything that any of us cannot do if we put all we’ve got into it?
I don’t think so. And while I’d rather have John McCain or Hillary Clinton answering the phone at 3 AM, I think that Barack Obama rejects the limitations that we too often put on ourselves and that’s a big part of his success and his potential to lead the country.