Since I had decided long ago what my vote would be, and the man I thought the better (though not nearly perfect) candidate won, it was enjoyable for me to watch. I really don’t want to dwell on the details.
The greatest problem for President-Elect Barack Obama may not be any of the crises with which he will need to deal, but rather the huge number of hopes, some of them contradictory, which have been read into his person. His election is an historic accomplishment, but as he correctly pointed out in his victory speech, last night was not the change. Last night simply provided the opportunity to accomplish the change. The work starts now.
Any politician discovers that the promises of the campaign trail, even when sincerely meant, are very difficult to deliver. Actual government involves working with many people and it requires compromise. Compromise is, well, compromise. But in Obama’s case, many people have filled the words “hope” and “change” with their own dreams.
I disagree with those who say that Obama was undefined. He made enough policy proposals so that we can know what he wants as well or better than we can with other politicians. But by simply seeming bigger than the moment and than any one person to so many, he has the burden of much more than he actually tried to promise.
Senator John McCain, on the other hand, goes back to the senate. In 2000 I hoped he would be the Republican nominee and I would have voted for him. In 2008 he appeared to be the fractured candidate. I believe his greatest failure was in not running a campaign as his own person.
The urge to draw in the base of the Republican party conflicted with many of his own views and positions. One thing every political operative should know is that you have to put a message in your candidate’s mouth that your candidate can present successfully. John McCain never presented the attacks on Barack Obama in a convincing manner.
I’m not one who objects to negative campaigning simply because it is negative. Rather, a candidate needs to know positively why he is the best person for the job, and negatively why the other guy isn’t, and he needs to present both cases. Adding a conservative candidate to the ticket doesn’t necessarily bring all that candidate’s potential supporters to you, and it doesn’t guarantee you won’t lose any of yours.
The bottom line here is that almost any message, consistently presented, would be better than shifting message from day to day. McCain couldn’t decide how far to go with attacks because, I believe, his heart wasn’t in them.
I wonder how it would have worked for him to campaign as who he is while letting Sarah Palin campaign as who she is, while simply stating that he had chosen to broaden the ticket and that the Republican party was big enough for both of them. It would go against conventional wisdom, and I have no basis for saying it would work, but I wonder if it could be worse. Governor Palin sounded sincere in the attacks. I don’t particularly like her, even though I did at first, but she does have a voice and a natural audience.
In any case, I sincerely hope that McCain will now become part of a center oriented group in congress that will work with President-Elect Obama to give him an alternative to working solely with the left. McCain returned to the man of 2000 in his gracious acceptance speech. These speeches may not mean much, but I hope they do.
As always, I will pray for the leaders of our country, all of them, as they face many difficult problems.