“Control the coinage and the courts, the rabble can have the rest.”
– The Princess Irulan, in Frank Herbert’s Dune
Sometime tonight, as I will be flying to Tokyo on the first leg of an around the world speaking tour, the captain will awaken us to the news that Senator Barack Obama has been elected president. This will most surely happen. If not, television advertising is dead in America and the networks will have to refund money to corporate advertisers, for Obama has clearly outspent his rival these last days.
And something else will happen in that airplane. Unless I am mistaken, it will explode in cheers.
Now I am a rare breed. I am among several hundred persons who devote their lives to the research and study of presidential history but unlike the rest of them, I am a conservative, Republican. So I have been getting a fare amount of e-mails from sincere people who are alarmed by the prospect of an Obama win and are looking for some perspective. So here you go.
In March, if you followed this blog, you read my prediction that Obama would win the nomination from Hillary and he would win the presidency. Although I added, “the media will milk the suspense right up to the end. After all, they are in show business. And yes, there are weird things that happen in politics and so there is a small possibility that it may not happen. Maybe they will find a brain tumor or a girl friend. Otherwise, we are on track for Obama.”
So the first thing I want to say is to lay off John McCain. The Republican brand was severely damaged. The economy was in the tank. He ran a surprisingly competitive campaign, even though I suspect it will drown in tonight’s landslide. Yes, landslide, electoral and otherwise. McCain is one of those rare losers who will come out of this experience looking good and without the smell of defeat because he did so remarkably well with the cards he was dealt.
The second thing I want my friends to do is to take a deep breath and enjoy, yes enjoy, this history making moment. This is a nation that loves its Constitution, its Declaration of Independence, its Bill of Rights. And yet all those lofty documents and all of their lofty language – “All men are created equal” – was written by men and women who tolerated and accommodated the slavery of a huge percentage of their fellow man. And those men and women were enslaved African Americans, the victims of crimes, kidnapped and violently taken against their will or descended of parents and grandparents who had experienced that trauma.
This is a great moment in American history. It is so unprecedented that one must leave government experience to find comparisons, Rosa Parks, Jackie Robinson. Even leave the country and the century.
I have made some comparisons to Andrew Jackson. He was the first westerner to win election. All the others had been members of the American Colonial aristocracy. They had come from either Massachusetts or Virginia. Jackson proved that a common man could win the White House. Most are unaware that Jackson was more popular in his time than Washington.
There will be comparisons to Lincoln, raised in abject poverty. His mother reportedly used thorns to hold her dress together. She didn’t have a door to her cabin or even a floor. The new wife got those luxuries.
But really, Jackson and Lincoln are only blurry images of the presidential history you are living in right now. This is unprecedented.
The other point I want to make to you is that the American politics of the left and the right, which seems so urgent and dangerous to you now, are really very close to each other. At least, compared to other countries and other societies. And they are instructed by trends that are deeply societal, beyond partisan platforms. If John McCain had been elected, Roe vs. Wade would not likely have been overturned. And now with Barack Obama we are not likely to return to courts who coddle criminals and punish victims. Keep in mind. We have just witnessed the socialization of the American Banking system and it has happened on the watch of your own, “conservative,” Republican, George W. Bush. Nothing the “liberal” Obama will do can really compare to such a “leftist” act.
So if Barack Obama is not the “cure all” that many liberals are hoping, and he will in fact at time disappoint them dearly, neither is he the beast that conservative, fund raisers, and activists will now portray. Understand, they are in “the sky is falling business.” Nothing personal, it pays the bills.
And finally, as I have pointed out in my earlier posts…. there is much good, even for conservatives, to come out of this moment.
For one thing, Obama will be immensely popular in the world. And popularity means power. Obama standing down Iran, with the world at his back, is far more intimidating than George W. Bush launching threats that the whole world, including the Iranians, know he can’t deliver. And the same applies to Russia and any other possible confrontation.
Secondly, a popular America will once again be a magnet of investment and just in time to help us in this economic crisis.
Finally, the restored American brand seals for our lifetime the American dream. Even if we are to later have another Bush, the world knows that American can also find another Obama too. In their mind, we can re-invent ourselves. It will engender more patience for future errant administrations.
Now, get ready. In the coming two years, as Republicans you are going to feel helpless. You are going to feel as if your heartfelt belief in free enterprise and the genius of the constitution and family values are forever lost. Because, make no mistake, the popularity of this president is only beginning on election night. It will rise and rise. And when the economy recovers, as it would have under McCain, or even Bush, for that matter, Obama will get the credit and be re-elected in an even bigger landslide next time.
Just remember that life and politics cycle. Hubris has its own built in braking system. And hubris follow success as surely as the sun appears in the morning. And there will be another Reagan to rise and show us the other side of the coin. The same people who cheer the left now, will one day see the need to re-embrace the best elements of the right. Don’t panic, enjoy the ride.
And what a ride it will be.
When the Obama motorcade rolls down the Champs Elysee a hundred thousand people will be weeping and cheering the American president, your president, my president, with joy. When he touches down in Kenya, three million people, an ocean of people will welcome him. And a whole continent will awaken with pride and hope of a better future. When he visits Jakarta, four million people will line the road from the airport to city center and the fourth largest Muslim nation on earth will be dancing in the streets. For a while, American will be stronger, and ironically, Israel will be safer. The sun will shine, for a while.
So don’t panic, don’t miss the moment. After the election ends, we will all be Americans again. No one says you have to relax your intellectual vigilance, or forfeit your views, or agree with everything that happens. But you can enjoy the fact that the American dream is real. And the long nightmare of the African American people is over. And incidentally, property values will never again be determined by the color of a person’s skin but by the content of their character, for the most socially important person in the country, the one who will dictate fashion and taste will be Michelle Obama.
So, take some advice from one who has given his life to the study of presidential history. Relax. Be proud of a great moment. Pray for your new president and his family. And join the celebration.