Wednesday, November 5, 2008

On the Making of History

It is done. It is finished. But we have only gone through the door.

It's been a while since I have written anything (other than poems) because I was working to help get out the vote in NY's 13th precinct. It was one of the few competitive areas of New York City, the last red district there. I did data entry for our canvassers, going over their travels with as fine a comb as I could manage. It was exhausting work and hectic. It is mostly done for now. I am taking today off and absorbing it all.

History would have been made no matter who won, but probably better to elect our first Black president and not the oldest one. true a female VP would have been a step forward, even if it was only a tiny one with Palin. But nonetheless it was a night to remember, full of drama and then finally getting out into the clear.

Unfortunately the senate dd not go as smoothly for the Dems as it should have. They are still counting the ballots as I write and haven't called several races. But it looks like the filibuster proof majority will not be reached. However with a large enough majority they can get what they want on a day to day basis. Judicial appointments might get tricky though, and large budget measures.

McCain was probably the strongest Republican who could have won. None of the other candidates could have fared any better. The fact that he was even facing a competitive election speaks more to her personality and story than any love of the Republican Party, and also from the fear of some voters with Obama.

He was the best they could put up, and he lost. with his party branded with the high stench of failure, there wasn't much he could do. But I think there were several things that kept him from being able to win, which were his doing. Regardless of how Bush, Iraq, and the economy were doing, he shot himself in the foot too.

First, was his age. In 2000, it was less of an issue. But the idea of electing the oldest president didn't sit well with a lot of voters, and I could't blame them. America may give its money to old people, but it doesn't like to elect them. We have resisted the kind of gerontocracy that the USSR and China have, and I think it has been a factor in our success. The American people wanted change and it is hard to believe it can come with wrinkles on its face.

Second, and related to his age, was his VP choice, perhaps the worse since Eagleton in 1972. Palin simply wasn't experienced, nor was she vetted enough. Her being on the ticket did not reflect well on McCain. She had charisma, but she simply did not stand up well under pressure and questioning. she brought little of her own ideas to the table and in the end probably did not get along with the rest of the McCain campaign. She couldn't even bring a large state to the table (which is why Biden wasn't the best pick either).

However she could be the reason the Democrats did not sweep through the senate elections, since she probably helped to boost social conservatives coming out.

Third, McCain did not have a consistent message. Even when he found his mantra of Joe the Plumber, it wasn't enough. Obama took the mantle of change early and McCain, in trying to steal it from him, was playing catch up. In 2000, McCain could have seriously tried to take it away from Obama, but in those eight years his public persona had changed and he had been brought into the fold of the GOP too much, ostensibly because he was thinking about 2008.

I liked him in 2000, but when he went over to praise Falwell, that was the end of it for me.

Which brings me to number four, on why he lost. McCain's problem was that he was too honorable and too much of a politician at the same time. Unlike Bush, he could never comfortably get down in the gutter, probably because Bush could do so while clutching a cross. That was his justification. But McCain always believed in his message and his being a maverick, which made it hard for him to use scare tactics and subtle racism like most Republicans. At the same time, he had tarnished his image by standing by and behind Bush and the social conservatives, who in the end did not appreciate his efforts, leading him to nominating Palin, which hurt him even more.

I do think he gave a good concession speech, and that hopefully will be the first honorable thing he does before going back to the senate, where he can try and build up a new legacy for himself, or become one of the key figures in Obama's reaching out to the other side of the aisle to try and make this country work.