Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Election post-mortem

About the only good news out of last night was that Democrats didn't get the filibuster-proof Senate they were looking for...I think. That should (hopefully) keep nightmare scenarios like the Freedom of Choice Act at bay for at least the next two years.

Other than that, though, the night was pretty much an unmitigated disaster.

In a concession speech filled with high-minded calls for Republicans to unilaterally disarm and bend over, John McCain did manage one moment of blunt honesty:

"The failure is mine."

Was it ever.

In a political environment that should have been insurmountable--but wasn't--McCain shot himself in the head. The moments where it was clear beyond a shadow of a doubt that he just did not get it were there in abundance, but it went far beyond that.

"Incoherence" was the watchword of this campaign. It started with the man at the top, and infected pretty much everyone--yes, everyone--on down the line.

There was never a consistent message. Brand new themes (Celebrity, The One, Experience, Judgment, Maverick, Liberal, Socialist, etc.) were picked up almost every week and discarded nearly as quickly.

Ten thousand attacks were ten thousand mosquito bites; never in the same place, never for very long, and as a result never doing much damage...if any at all.

If there is a defining moment for the futility of McCain's attacks, it was during the third debate, where he simply repeated the phrase "spread the wealth" over and over. He never linked it to Obama's policies. He never linked it to the real-life consequences of the philosophy behind it. He never even seemed to have any real grasp of why it was such a blunder for Obama in the first place.

He simply repeated the phrase, again and again, as if it were a mantra that would somehow magically unleash the voters' inner selves and cause them to transcend to a Republican plane of consciousness. (I readily recall McCain acting in much the same way when he brought up William Ayers and Obama's record on earmarks.)

The same thing happened during the financial crisis, and that pretty much sealed McCain's fate. He pinballed from trumpeting the soundness of the economy to denouncing Wall Street greed to publicly leaving the campaign trail (only to backtrack a few days later) to...well, to "spread the wealth."

Meanwhile, Obama and his allies were consistently hammering home the Big Lie that the Bush Administration and deregulation were to blame for the crisis. They told it loud enough, they told it often enough--and people believed it.

Even the one bright spot in the campaign--the national introduction of Sarah Palin--ended up a disaster. I'm not talking here about the politically manufactured scandals; I'm talking about her inability--one I strongly suspect was inherited/adapted from McCain--to respond to a direct question with anything other than a rambling, pre-emptive stump speech only theoretically related to what she was supposed to be answering.

For all the good her brilliant speeches at her unveiling and the RNC did her, her later performances undid that progress...and then some. Palin's reputation has been destroyed. She is the new Dan Quayle. Her political career on the national stage is effectively over; one of the GOP's brightest rising stars has been extinguished.

Where do we go from here? Nowhere fast.

Looking to the future, it's a near-certainty that we'll see the reinstatement of the Fairness Doctrine, leading to the squelching of talk radio (and the economic ruin of the stations that signed personalities like Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity to long, pricey contracts--an object lesson for the radio companies, in case some future Republican administration should ever rescind the Doctrine again) and leaving conservatives without any mass media presence whatsoever. Card check will revitalize the unions, key Democratic supporters.

FOCA is not likely (pray to God) to get past a Republican filibuster--but if it does, on top of everything else, that's effectively the end of the pro-life movement as a political force. The GOP's most dependable and committed group of supporters goes up in smoke.

Obama may well be a one-term president. But in that one term, he will very likely set the stage for Democratic domination for at least the next generation...assuming the country lasts that long.


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