I must open with heartfelt thanks to all of you for the passion and drama and rhetoric and personality you’ve offered each other and the world, in the political-theatre context, for the last couple of years. Unless the tools of Statistics have suddenly become empty shells, Mr. Obama will be your forty-fourth President; I’ve said my piece on why this is probably a good thing. Here’s some more.

Barack himself, if you ignore the ethnic glamour, the remarkable gift of gab, and those cartoonist-friendly ears (they’re not the same size!), seems little more on the face of it than a mainstream-Democratic-party politico with unusually good management and marketing skills.

The Movement · But I think there are two things about this election that are special. First, the Obama campaign, which is much more interesting than Obama, the candidate. The extent to which it’s made huge numbers of perfectly ordinary people into passionate activists is remarkable. I see the video of them organizing and phone-calling and door-knocking and so on, and it’s just impossible not to be moved. These are the kinds of people that people who like Americans like: energetic, fresh-faced, civic-minded, sincere to an extent that would be laughed at in some — well, most — other countries.

Thus, whatever my feelings about the candidate, I am so, so happy that these folks’ hard work and passion is going to receive a just reward.

As for the apparently smaller and less passionate number of people who toiled for the McCain campaign? Well, yeah, it’s tough, but that leads to my next point.

The Real Value of Democracy · I’ve written about this before; I don’t really trust the American people, or any populace actually, to pick the optimal economic or foreign-relations policies. It’s a complex world, and Nobel Prize winners disagree on this stuff. I even have relatively little confidence in the public’s judgment on the suitability of one person or another for public office.

What I’ve long been confident of is the ability of the people at large to detect when they’re being governed badly. And thus I’ve felt that the key virtue of democracy is to give the population, when they detect this condition, a peaceful and orderly way to throw the bastards out and try betting on another horse. It seems to me that if you have that, you have almost everything, and if you don’t, you have nothing.

And at the end of the day, that’s what this election is about. The Republicans are the party of Dick Cheney and Tom DeLay and Trent Lott and Rick Santorum and Bradley Scholzman, and the American people have quite properly concluded that these guys’ hands need to be wrested from the levers of power. It was watching Schlozman’s testimony on C-SPAN, insomniac in a hotel room, that flipped my personal switch about American politics, convincing me that this generation of Republicans aren’t reasonable people with whom I have disagreements, they’re corrupt lying torturing malevolent buffoons.

I tend to swing left, but any country’s political discourse needs a plausible conservative alternative, and unfortunately the USA doesn’t have one at the moment.

But anyhow: Thanks again, and congratulations!


Comment feed for ongoing:Comments feed

From: Michael Buckbee (Nov 04 2008, at 11:40)

I'm probably the 10th person to submit this comment, but: "76 Nobel Prize Winners Endorse Obama".


- Mike


From: Jeremy Nicoll (Nov 04 2008, at 12:26)

Well said - we really don't have a better option (at least that has a spitting chance of making it). Personally, I despise both and so I voted for neither major party in the presidential race.


From: John Cowan (Nov 04 2008, at 12:36)

If it comes to that, The U.S. doesn't have a plausible left-wing alternative either. We have the Wingnut Party and the Party That Moonbats Vote For While Holding Their Noses. (We also have the Official Monster Raving Loony Party -- but only in Florida.)

That said, today I actually felt good when returning from the polls. I can't remember the last time that happened; maybe 1976?


From: len (Nov 04 2008, at 13:35)

The Republican Party will move centrist now. The 2004 election was the real last hurrah of the ultra right. Now the ultra left is taking the helm unless there is an upset, but it is the ultra left that is Obama's inner circle. Otherwise Bill Ayers would be doing the same time as the 16th street church bombers.

We like to roll the dice in the States and we've done it again. The Movement will soon become multiple small movements because that is the way bottom up systems develop. From HTML to XML to Blogs to YouTube, bottom systems thrive on their morphability. So don't expect a kumbayah that lasts for long. It never does and that is a good thing.

Where I have to disagree with you, Tim, is I don't think the concept of one law governing all has ever had a firm grasp on your thinking. It shows in many ways, but that aside, it is the vital part of the center. The same electorate that chose Bush badly may have just chosen Obama badly and I'm one of them, but I know how to apply the same tests. I did not vote for Bush and as you recall, I went ballistic early over his means.

So let's see what Obama has but let's apply the same tests and measure them just as honestly.

Otherwise, believe it or not, Palin is the sign of the Republican turn to the center because where the Democrats pilloried their best female candidate, the Republicans raised theirs up. She is the new face of American feminism, a move to the center away from the extremism that has typified feminism for some years now. It will not be the women of our age group that respond to her. It will be the young women and we'll have to get out of their way soon enough.

Those who thrive on opportunism will be lining up to get new glasses.


From: Erik Engbrecht (Nov 04 2008, at 14:28)

I'm with Jeremy. The US needs at least one new party. It looks like the Republicans will get to the be party that is initially fractured.


From: Matt Thompson (Nov 04 2008, at 15:39)

Tim - you mention that this is the virtue of democracy - however the US isn't a true democracy, it's a Republic (for a very good reason). The founding fathers felt (almost universally) that the people of the US were both too busy, too geographically dispersed, and too ignorant of the issues to rule themselves. Hence the current system of the many selecting the few, and the few in turn governing on behalf of the many. By design, a Republic is supposed to protect the "unalienable rights" of individuals more so than a true democracy (in which "the many" can easily overturn the needs of "the few")

I believe it was Adams that once said (paraphrased) that in times of need, the people of this country might not be smart enough to make the right decisions for themselves. Interesting test...


From: Etan Wexler (Nov 05 2008, at 00:35)

Hurray. Obama. That one. The first black president of the United States of America (“ethnic glamour”, indeed). Uh – what comes now? Am I going to feel achy and nervous in a little while, as though descending from an acid trip? Oh, that’s right: I never got high in the first place.

I wish that I hadn’t felt intense pressure to vote for a power‐hungry master of ceremonies whose brightest feature is being the only plausible opponent to a serious contender who was an order of political magnitude worse. The democracy that America offers to her citizens comes in two flavors (“flavours”, sorry) and you will like it, fuck you very much. (U+2612 U+2639)

At least I got to vote on a paper ballot, and to read about the plans to deploy paper balloting in the next and future elections. Don’t get me wrong: it’s not that I don’t love Diebold, Incorporated. I mean, do I look like one of those radical, crazy, anti‐American radicals who questions the motives and competence of such a clearly patriotic and industrious enterprise? You’re damn right, I don’t! I guess that I just like the sensation of the paper between my fingers.

So, sure, thank you, my fellow Americans, for electing the Barack. We’ve averted (the continuation of our) national disaster. Together, we can make up the difference. (Or maybe not; seven hundred billion USD and counting isn’t exactly chump change, not to mention the two wars that we ordered with extra cheese.) As the kids say, “k thx ttyl”. As the not‐quite‐kids say, “FOAD. HTH. HAND.”


From: Susan from SC (Nov 05 2008, at 02:16)

I was particularly astounded tonight during the CNN pundit commentary when they talked about the open source movement and how it has changed software development, making it more "bottoms up", much like the way Obama ran his campaign.

And I have to say it was way cool to get an e-mail from Obama thanking me, a mere blogger and campaign donor, and the cast of thousands of others who helped him win, before he walked on stage in Chicago tonight.

And then there was McCain and Palin both appearing on Saturday Night Live...

This has been an amazing show, for sure.


From: John (Nov 05 2008, at 05:22)

Tim, you're a bit too loose with your generalizations - "this generation of Republicans aren’t reasonable people with whom I have disagreements, they’re corrupt lying torturing malevolent buffoons."

Really? Believe it or not, there are still Republicans from that generation who don't fit this description. There are those of us who still believe in the core values of the Republican party and yes, have cringed at some of the decisions made over the past 8 eights years. At the same time, many of us (apparently about 45% of the country) feel that a Republican in the White House is a better alternative to what we're about to get.


From: Steve (Nov 05 2008, at 07:22)

John - Welcome to how I've felt the last 8 years.

In 2000 over 50% of the US population felt that a Democrat was a better alternative to what we got. You remember when the popular vote went to Gore?

In 2004 48% of the country felt that a Democrat was a better option.

So actually, if the numbers hold up, the margin is greater this year.

There have been some reports that voter turnout was smaller this year, and with the Democrats actively registering new voters, I'm wondering why. Did Republicans stay home since they really didn't care for McCain? Or did the reports of new voters turning out in droves not correct.


From: len (Nov 06 2008, at 07:49)

If the numbers hold up, it's a six point split and not a landslide. The last president to get a real landslide was Richard Nixon in 1972 and within months, that ship was sinking. The Dems didn't get a filibuster proof Congress and the midterms are likely to shift some of that back to the right.

It is a big enough victory to avoid litigation and that is enough.

I supported McCain but I voted for Obama. Why? One, I am a Democrat but two, I liked the way my black neighbors were holding their heads high for the first time in my life. It isn't all roses here. The students in my daughter's high school danced on their desks, fights broke out, schools were locked down. All hushed up too.

So celebrate but remember that 47% of the electorate did not support Obama and for lots of different valid reasons. If he is to have any effect, he needs a broader base of willing hands working on their own problems. Government is not a solution in and of itself. It can be an enabler.

A mandate not really necessary.

America has to ask herself if she wants to go forward with fixing the infrastructure problems, the energy problems, the problems of education and so on. This isn't time for the Great Get Even of indictments or blood letting. We voted. Next. That's our way and it works.

Bottom up systems are not about open source. Bottom up systems are about groups picking a problem they feel passionate about and working on a solution together. The illusion of a top is the illusion afforded by the values the top espouses. The rest is tools, but the important ingredient is not our tools but our shared values. Find your tribe with your cause and get to work on that. The great get even is a waste. We have a new president-elect and a new energy to work with. Let's not waste it.


From: Ryan Cousineau (Nov 06 2008, at 16:55)


I think Reagan's 59%-41% victory in 1984 ought to count as a landslide.


From: len (Nov 07 2008, at 07:08)

Good point. I'd forgotten Reagan did such a number on Mondale. Nixon was extraordinary because the cracks in the wall were already noticeable and yet he was the overwhelming choice over McGovern.

All of the people some of the time...


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