Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Yes They Did

Okay, let's face it. It was a transformative night, however you cut it.

It represented the diminution (though not the elimination) of race as a wedge issue. It represented a massive rejection of the failed presidency of George Walker Bush.

Most of all, I think, it represented generational change.

For me, it creates the awkward moment of knowing the the next President of the United States is younger than I am. I don't think I like that.

There were two great speeches last night. Obama's speech was gracious, moving, inspiring.

John McCain's speech was fundamentally tragic.

Yes, it was gracious.

But it was tragic, because it reminded us of the John McCain who should have been running for President - the John McCain that ran for President in 2000, the John McCain who was running for President in 2008 until he was possessed by the twin spirits of Karl Rove and Dick Cheney.

The only Republican who had any chance of winning in 2008 was John McCain. He had the maverick's appeal to independents and to the Reagan Democrats. That was the John McCain who was able to defy the odds in New Hampshire. That was the John McCain who nearly secured the Republican nomination all on his own.

But that John McCain blinked.

The Quixotic Huckabee bid to continue the race after it was no longer a race unnerved John McCain. It showed that he was not the preferred candidate of the religious conservative base.

Traditionally, candidates play to the base until they've won the nomination. Then they tack back to the centre for the general election. John McCain did the opposite. Having secured the nomination, he then gave himself over to the most hardline - and the least appealing - segment of his party, allowing them to make over his public image into that of an angry and divisive fossil of a bygone election.

They say that generals lose if they fight the last war. This son and grandson of admirals proved that the same foolishness can happen to sailors.

McCain ran the Bush '04 strategy.

There were only three things wrong with this.
  1. McCain is not Bush
  2. '08 is not '04
  3. Obama is not Kerry

In Season One of The West Wing, the fictional Bartlet Presidency is turned around when his staff realize why things haven't been working. Their conclusion? It's the title of Episode 19 - Let Bartlet be Bartlet.

People want authenticity. That's what they liked about Barack Obama. That's what they used to like about John McCain. As one might cynically say, "authenticity is everything - and once you can fake that, you've got it made."

Had Republican operatives "let McCain be McCain," this would have been an entirely different campaign. It would certainly have been a tighter election race.


Anonymous said...

I was following the election off and on throughout the evening and it was remarkable how quickly the projected victory became apparent. I didn't get a chance to watch Obama's speech. I was relegated to child-duty at that point, which allowed my wife to watch it (she liked what he had to say).

I think you are right in that McCain's speech reminded people of the best that McCain could and should have represented throughout the campaign.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

In case you think this race was really transformative, consider this (courtesy of Calgary Grit):

Look at exit poll numbers from Alabama (it was similar across the south).

White voters 88-10 for McCain
Black voters 98-2 for Obama

Not Kumbaya. Not yet.

Doorman-Priest said...

Everyone seems younger than me. I don't like that at all!