As a conservative, my post-election emotions have followed the typical pattern. You know…shock, denial, anger…I even took a page from the 2004 liberal playbook and imagined moving to Canada, although I realized with Democrats in power, Canada is probably going to be moving here!
Eight days after the election, I’ve reached the "bargaining" stage. Google, which has generously removed all the world’s information from our brains and put it into our web browsers, leads me to a page defining bargaining as "a vain expression of hope that the bad news is reversible."
"Vain expression of hope." Sound familiar? I guess 66 million of our fellow Americans were in the bargaining stage on Election Day. But I’m not writing to vent my wrath at the suckers who pulled the lever for the Hope-Change ticket: that was left over from the "anger" stage. Back from whence you came, bitterness! It’s time to express my hope that this bad news is reversible, and hope my hope (can a person do that?) is not in vain.
Anger isn’t constructive, after all, it’s destructive: so let’s not fall into the "not my president" trap- after the 2000 election, anger’s allure was so strong for millions of liberals that for almost eight years they’ve actually rooted against our country just to spite George W. Bush. I don’t want to see the Dow crash just because my guy lost. I don’t want high American death tolls and future instability in Iraq just so I can say "I told you so." Our country’s success should be everyone’s biggest priority, and with that in mind I wish President-Elect Obama the best.
(If you continue get the urge to indulge in schadenfreude, then be happy about the fact that neither Bill nor Hillary Clinton will ever again be president. Thank God for that!)
Though Mr. Obama deserves our general support, conservatives can’t gloss over the fact that many things we care about are now in danger. First and foremost are the rights of unborn children. 3,700 die each day in America, and more babies will be killed in the name of that newest of American rights – convenience – if bills like the so-called Freedom of Choice Act become law.
Our next worry is that five years’ blood and treasure spent in Iraq will be wasted by a man who has promised not to win the war, but simply to end it. European-style socialism and the resultant equal distribution of mediocrity is a concern, too, but let’s be honest: John McCain’s campaign was only slightly pinker than that of Obama. Which of the candidates wanted the government to buy $300 billion in bad mortgages to bail out greedy homeowners who chose to buy beyond their means? McCain didn’t sound too conservative to me during the bailout talks!
As if a Democrat in the White House wasn’t enough injury, an even more dangerous insult is that Congress is more Democratic-and more liberal- than it has been in a generation. Over the next two years, conservatives will have to do all we can to ensure our voices are heard on the right to life, victory in Iraq, and other less crucial issues.
My purpose, though, is not to point out all the clouds: they are there and we’ll deal with them as they come. I want to point out that this election brought some positives, too. These positives are worth your consideration, not only to ease the pain of seeing liberals ride a tsunami of Bush-hatred and economic fear into a huge Congressional majority, but as things to build upon as we consider how to win back our country in two and four years.
Here, then, are ten silver linings for conservatives.
1. Sarah Palin. An electrifying choice that got conservatives excited about the McCain ticket, Palin is a bright star and the future of American conservatism. Going forward she will represent a return to the traditional values and common-sense principles that helped the GOP win the previous two elections. She has acquitted herself well through her tireless campaigning, her inspiring personal example, and the absolute grace she’s shown in rising above the unfair criticisms levied on her by the media, dried-up old feminists who presume to speak for all women, and most recently by finger-pointing McCain campaign staffers.
Although the media (and fellow women like Katie Couric to Tina Fey) did their best to tear down this anti-feminist and reduce her to caricature, she has a roughly equivalent level of experience as our President-Elect. Obama’s celebrity and message of "change" outweighed the fact that he never led anything more than his presidential campaign. If running for president counts as executive experience, though, Obama wins- he began his campaign well before Palin was elected governor in 2006.
Sarah Palin will be back. One of the few intellectually honest (or even intellectual or honest, really) thinkers on the left is Camille Paglia. Like Ms. Paglia, I find Palin fascinating and inspiring, and lament the hateful and closed-minded treatment self-described "enlightened progressives" gave her. It was rooted in sheer childish hatred. The idea that a woman doesn’t count as a woman because she opposes abortion, for example, is ludicrous. A parallel to such illogic can be found in the notion that conservatives like Clarence Thomas are not really black because they are conservative. "Aunt Sarah" might be a good female equivalent to the "Uncle Tom" label, if the former didn’t conjure up images of a pancake house.
The liberal feminists who snidely said there was no comparison between Palin and Hillary Clinton did get that absolutely correct, though: the two are very different. Palin actually loves her husband. Did I mention she’s attractive, too?
2. The repudiation of big-government conservatism (and the endurance of social conservatism). This election, Democratic turnout increased 2.5% vs. 2004. Republican turnout was down 1.3% this year, thanks to two things.
First, McCain’s history of liberalism on issues that matter to social conservatives kept many of us home on Election Day (I voted, but I didn’t have 10% of the zeal of the average Obama kool-aid drinker). Second, George W. Bush’s uncontrollable government spending drove away the fiscal conservatives. Two particular pieces of legislation symbolize Dubya’s attempt to win a "permanent majority" by spending like a drunken Democrat- the Medicare prescription entitlement expansion and the No Child Left Behind Act. Both represent inefficient big government and the fruitlessness of trying to get Democratic Congressmen or traditional Democratic constituencies to like you.
Rush Limbaugh was a sage comfort to me and millions of others in the days following the election. To those who claimed this election meant the death of conservatism, he wisely noted that "conservatism wasn’t on the ballot," and where it was on the ballot, it won. Not convinced? Consider California, whose people approved Proposition 8, which defines marriage as between a man and woman. Our nation’s most liberal and populous state – in which Obama beat McCain by 23 points – chose to eliminate homosexual marriage, 52.4% to 47.6%. You may recall that such a ballot initiative helped Bush win Ohio in 2004.
Social conservatism, then, is alive and well. Fiscal conservatism, on the other hand, has few champions these days. We may all be Keynesians willing to give tax dollars to every hot dog stand that can’t operate profitably, but I take heart in the fact that traditional values rooted in Judeo-Christian religions (and/or simple common sense) can win a majority even in the state responsible for O.J. Simpson, the Manson Family, and the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
We’re still looking for the fiscal conservatives’ silver lining – not the $11 trillion cloud hanging over future generations – so here it is: while Obama has a typically ambitious liberal agenda, he ran against Bush’s atrocious record of deficit spending. Furthermore, the proven budget-balancer of divided government will return in two or four years, depending on how poorly Pelosi’s and Reid’s do-nothing Congress continues to perform.
3. A giant leap forward in American race relations. This is a proud moment for our nation. In the days after Obama’s win, I couldn’t help but feel happy for the African-Americans I saw, their faces radiant with pride. We’ve come a long way, and I give the President-elect much credit for rising above the typical racial politics to which we’ve all become accustomed.
Thanks perhaps to his biracial background, or because he is too young to remember the 1960s, Obama apparently harbors none of the bitterness that Civil Rights leaders-turned race profiteers like Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton have used to promote defeatism amongst black Americans. Throughout his ascendancy, Obama largely avoided using the race card. To be honest, he never needed to, thanks to a subservient media and a timid John McCain. McCain and his former "base" failed to probe Obama’s Jeremiah Wright connection, probably because they were afraid of the race issue. In the primary Reverend Wright was an issue, but a man who believes a) this is a racist country and, b) we deserved 9/11, was hardly controversial to Democrats— most of whom agree with him.
PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi recently told Fortune the best advice she ever got was this: assume positive intentions on the part of everyone you encounter. I have tried to take that advice to heart in my dealings with neighbors, coworkers, and the 80% of people in my university city who voted for Obama (and put up yard signs, and bumper stickers, and Mao-esque likenesses of him in their living room windows…). So for Obama, I’m assuming positive intent, unless proven otherwise.
This is not to say there is no cause for concern. One can only hope- there’s that word again- that our next president has not been influenced by 20 years of hateful Jeremiah Wright sermons or by a wife who babysat Jackson’s kids and was never proud of this country until this year. I also hope the race card has lost its power to silence honest debate, and that "racism" has lost its power as an excuse.
On a side note, I was angered by those election-night pundits who heaped significance on the fact that Obama won my home state of Virginia, the "former capital of the Confederacy." We Virginians elected America’s first post-Reconstruction black governor over two decades ago, and neither I nor my parents ever owned slaves, participated in a lynching, or made anyone sit in the back of a bus. Moreover, large black populations in Virginia and North Carolina helped Obama win those states. If 95% of whites voted for the white candidate, those whites could fairly be called racist. Why does the same logic not apply this year?
4. Further erosion of the mainstream media’s credibility. For years, print and television media has been far to the left. This year, some of them even admitted it.
As noted by The Economist, which itself endorsed Obama, widespread media bias helped sink McCain-Palin. Even the Washington Post’s ombudsman admitted to pro-Obama bias (after their guy won the election, of course). The news media got caught up in the historicity of this election and Obama’s cult of personality, and never scrutinized him like it did McCain, Palin, and even Hillary Clinton. They dug into Joe the Plumber’s background more than Joe Biden, for God’s sake!
While their inexcusably tilted coverage may have handed Obama the win, the bright side is that going forward, no serious person will ever again trust the New York or LA Times, the Post, or any of the Big Three networks to provide anything but biased political coverage.
5. Reagan’s enduring impact and a new generation of Democrats. Bill Clinton minimized his liberalism to win in 1992 and later declared "the era of big government’ finished. Obama’s endorsement of tax cuts as a vehicle for economic growth also echoes Reagan (although he has employed textbook Democratic class warfare by promising to shift the tax burden to "the rich").
I see in Obama a willingness to challenge the conventional wisdom. Members of the new generation of Democratic politicians like Washington D.C.’s Adrian Fenty (who also happens to be black) are not beholden to the lobbies that own the thoroughly corrupted Clintons (teachers, unions, abortionists, etc.), and thus are willing to apply reason and statistical analysis (gasp!) to problems like education instead of throwing more money at them. In D.C., Fenty emasculated the school board and gave 38-year-old schools chancellor Michelle Rhee the power to close schools, fire teachers and principals, and (gasp again!) enable parents to use vouchers to get their kids out of failing schools. Perhaps Obama will give logic a try, and in the process help Democrats acquire a taste for its utility as a problem-solving tool.
6. The Supreme Court isn’t in that much danger. Dubya did right by those who believe our Founding Fathers got the Constitution right the first time by nominating two un-Borkable, constructionist, and very young judges to the Supreme Court. Despite his recent conversion to conservatism, a President McCain might very well have sent another David Souter to the bench as did the similarly aconservative Bush 41 (remember him?).
The oldest justices (presumably the next to retire or pass away) are John Paul Stevens and Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Both see the Constitution as a "living document" which can be re-written to find rights to things like homosexual marriage, and, most shamefully, the state-sanctioned murder of the unborn in the name of convenience. President Obama could hardly appoint anyone worse, should those two retire in the next four years. If Obama wins re-election, 2012-2016 might give opportunities to upset the current balance, but we’ll have a chance to defeat him in 2012 so first things first. Besides, I have no doubt that by then liberals will have misgoverned America enough to have at least lost the Senate to resurgent conservative Republicans who will not allow another agenda-toting judge on the Court.
7. The impossible expectations game. When everyone picks an NFL team to win the Super Bowl before the season starts, there is nowhere to go but down. Witness the Patriots and Cowboys this year. The same logic applies to politics. With the hope invested in Barack Obama, he can’t help but disappoint his supporters. Most liberals view Obama as equal parts Moses, Jesus Christ, and Martin Luther King, Jr. How can one man balance the budget, make health care affordable and universal, defeat al-Qaida, and solve the Palestinian crisis?
Unless he continues to blindly follow Democratic orthodoxy as he did in the Senate, there will be friction between President Obama and the Pelosi-Reid Congress, which after two years in power has lower approval ratings than President Bush on his worst day.
The main silver lining here is that Democrats have all the power now, so they will get all the blame…and eventually suffer the electoral consequences. While I’m sure George W. Bush will receive blame for every hurricane and snowstorm from now to 2030 ("global warming causes them both, dont’cha know, and that evil bastard wouldn’t sign Kyoto!"), at some point the person steering the ship will have to be accountable. While 53% of voters seem to think Obama can achieve world peace in his first 100 days just by radiating good feelings, some fraction of those who wanted to "try something new" will eventually grow disillusioned and next time the GOP will be the ones pushing "Change You Can Believe In."
8. Obama is not beholden to loony left-wingers in Congress or the blogosphere. Quite the opposite: many new Democratic congressmen owe their seats to Obama’s hopeful coattails.
The President-Elect has shown pragmatism by supporting the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. This bill allows liberals’ worst bogeymen "warrantless wiretapping," and Obama’s flip-flop on it evoked the highest levels of moral indignation from the left (moral indignation: a technique used to endow the idiot with dignity). Such indignation was nowhere to be found, though, when Candidate Obama flip-flopped on his campaign promise to accept public financing if his opponent did the same. Gosh, it’s enough to make you think liberals have no principles!
As for Congress, my hope that our next President will resist their liberal agenda admittedly contains little evidence or substance. It’s just your basic garden-variety, empty, unsupported, fingers-crossed kind of hope. Maybe I should run for president.
9. The notion of sacrifice. 9/11 wasn’t President Bush’s fault, and he has done an admirable job. The man gets no credit for the fact that there hasn’t been an attack on U.S. soil in the seven-plus years since. Like Truman and Reagan before him, history will acquit him well (despite ignorant liberals’ proclivity for labeling him the "worst president ever").
That said, Bush’s great wartime failure was in not having enough faith in the American people to ask them to sacrifice anything in the wake of 9/11. His instructions to "go shopping" to defeat terrorism insulted our intelligence, indulged our selfish tendencies, and has only helped to increase politicians’ cynical use of the GDP and S&P 500 as the best barometers of our nation’s health and success.
"It’s the economy, stupid," and "Are you better off than you were four years ago?" reduce man to an economic being, exactly the way Karl Marx wanted. Just as there are better reasons for buying a house than the hope of getting rich quick, there are better things on which to base one’s vote than who will give us the biggest tax cut or stimulus package.
10. Hollywood finally (almost) shut the hell up. Michael Moore didn’t make a movie or write a book to influence this election (although Oliver Stone did). Sure, Hollywood gave Obama plenty of money, but at least they seem to have finally learned that Americans don’t care to take their voting advice from actors and rock stars.
So there you go: ten reasons for optimism. If those are not enough, add your own. The Bill of Rights only had ten when it was first written, and look how many it has now! If you don’t know how many amendments we currently have, no worries- Google knows.
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