Well, what seemed like inevitable for the last few weeks is now official – the world woke up today to greet the President-Elect of the United States of America, Barack Obama.
I did not vote for the guy, but I will still claim the right to cheer the notion of hope that his ascension was built upon. I, like many others, hope that this historic election will make this country that I love better. And stronger (not in the sense of military might, but in the sense of reestablishing the basic tenets of our democracy that have been under an assault from the current administration). And – yes, it is important to me! – again admired by the world.
I am on the bandwagon of hope. I truly am. But I still have serious misgivings.
Let’s emphasize it beyond any doubt: I have little, if anything, in common with the GOP when it comes to social policies (we graphically established that here and here). And while I consider myself an economic conservative, this is not what the Republican party has been in the last decade or so.
I was not supporting McCain the Republican. I was supporting McCain the distinguished legislator, McCain the Senator with a long history of crossing the aisle for causes that he believed in, McCain the staunch free-trader, McCain who took unpopular stands on issues such as immigration or the “surge”, McCain who once labelled radical religious right “the agents of intolerance”. In other words, McCain the person who earned my respect over the entire product of his life-long public service.
That McCain did not show up in the months leading to the election. While both campaigns flung their fair share of mud in each other’s direction, it was McCain’s campaign which was shriller, more hysterical and not in the least constructive. Whatever we heard of plans to tackle various issues was sketchy and full of holes to drive entire armoured brigades through. Pandering to conservative base became pervasive. The fateful selection of Sarah Palin as the running mate emphasized the biggest problem with McCain’s management style – impulsiveness. (I admit, when I first learned about it, I thought it was a stroke of genius, shoring up the base and appealing to the portion of populace that may have been keen to vote for a woman as a matter of principle; I started to appreciate the negative effect of this selection only a few weeks afterwards.)
In short, my candidate disappointed me to no end.
Obama, meanwhile, has run a tremendously organized and coherent campaign. Heaps of money and the fawning coverage of the liberal MSM helped, no doubt, but a lot of credit goes to the candidate himself. He started out as a relative novice politician with a history of unflinchingly toeing the party line, and emerged as a thoughtful statesman with comparatively detailed plans to address problems that plague the country (love his plans or hate them, but at least he explained to the country what he wants to do, while his opponent only hinted at that, at best). He surrounded himself with what looks to be a very impressive stable of economic advisors. He selected a running mate that would cover for the most glaring weaknesses in his own political résumé. He handled various calamities, on balance, much more gracefully and admirably than McCain.
In other words, Obama appeared in a much better light among the two candidates in the run-up to the Election Day, and in my non-partisan worldview which puts premium on intellect, poise and other personal qualities, I should have voted for him in the end.
Why didn’t I? The main reasons have already been mentioned elsewhere, among them my recoil from the notion of “redistributing the wealth”. I know first-hand what economic socialism is like, after all.
But most importantly, I did support McCain at least partially because he was a Republican. As the Democrats were poised to capture the levels of control of both the House and the Senate that they had not seen in generations, putting a Democrat in the White House as well felt downright irresponsible to me. Especially a Democrat who never distinguished himself with standing up to his party’s baronies. I actually do not mind the appointment of liberal judges to the Supreme Court and federal benches that this will cause – remember, I am a social liberal by every measure. But I fear the bad ideology-driven legislation that this might bring without a credible threat of a presidential veto. And what happened the last time when a single party controlled both branches of the government? Arguably, the current economic conditions can be blamed on the first half of this decade when the Republicans had control of both the White House and the Capitol. Could the Democrats be any better? I sorely doubt that.
So I erred on the side of keeping the legislative branch in check. My personal deliberations notwithstanding, the people of the United States have emphatically spoken for Obama.
I hope that I was wrong, above all.