I’m a libertarian; I’m used to being unsatisfied with election results, even when the candidates I voted for win.
I did not vote for Obama. I don’t agree with his policies, and I don’t sympathize with his view of the world. But most politicians, no matter what you think of them while they’re campaigning, have a way of turning into windsocks once elected. Time will tell what he does with the office. In a few months, he’ll be our president, and I wish him the best.
A related point: I’m disturbed at the complaints that seem to imply that Obama was elected because of the media or his cult-creating mind rays. Yes, the media were shilling for him shamelessly. Yes, a lot of his most fervent admirers seemed to be working themselves into the sort of ecstasies that have no business surfacing anywhere outside church or a performance at the opera.
But it’s our job as citizens to seek out information. Ours. Those who wanted to read his memoirs critically were able to do so. Those who wanted to find information about Bill Ayers and the Chicago Annenberg Challenge were able to do so. Those who wanted to know what the historical record says about social-democratic policy were able to do so. I’m not absolving CNN of its transgressions, only saying that it demeans our fellow citizens to imply that they needed to be spoonfed the truth. Some people are fully aware that Obama’s longer on charisma than on policy, and they hope that’s enough because they recognize that a lot of the most pressing issues of the day are going to have to go through congress anyway. Others decided that he would be the less deleterious choice in the long run despite disliking quite a bit of what he stands for. And finally, some people persist in believing that the Third Way will somehow work if we get it right this (twelve millionth) try.
I don’t agree, but that doesn’t mean that large segments of the electorate were brainwashed by Wolf Blitzer and Andrea Mitchell. If we’re going to argue that people should be expected to earn their own way in society, surely we can expect them to use Google, on a terminal at the public library if necessary.
Having now criticized my own side a bit, let me get back to the more fun project of criticizing the opposition. I agree that the election of a black president is a moving, historic moment. It was one thing to know that it was theoretically possible, because we all said that we were worried about policy and character and not skin tone. It’s another thing entirely to see America actually show that someone’s non-whiteness would not prevent his being voted in. It’s the difference between the hopeful belief that you’re good enough for your beloved and actually having your marriage proposal accepted. I get it. In and of itself, that’s a good thing. And this is an American election. so of course it’s American racial history that we’re using as context to judge it.
At the same time, could we just every once in a while show some knowledge of the wider world here? Racism and ethnocentrism are the norm in human history, not some rebarbative Yankee aberration. The United States did not invent ethnic tensions, and it was not even the last country to outlaw slavery. To outsiders from nations that have traditionally been more ethnically homogeneous, our noisy, front-and-center conversation on race looks like unrest and a chronic inability to get along, but that’s exactly backwards. In America, arguing is what we do. Our periods of glazed-over gentility such as the 1950s tend to arise from external circumstances and be short-lived. American mouthiness and rough-and-tumble debate cause more immediate bruising, but they’ve helped us to advance organically through our racial and ethnic problems much better than the Europeans, Asians, and Africans that so many left-of-center people think we should be genuflecting to.