1. This election confirms the persistence of considerable racial divisions.
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
Race is a better predictor of how one voted than party ID! So racial divisions are surely there, you just won't find them by asking people "are you racist?"
2. Obama had a Karl Rove strategy. For all the talk about expanding the base, Obama's increases came largely among groups that already backed the Democrats: young people, hispanic voters and African Americans. This coupled with a tightly scripted, low press access campaign is the left wing version of Rove 101 (expand the base till you hit 51-52%). Obama has a rather poor record as a bridge-builder and, frankly, has no incentives to reach out to Republicans, since the Dems have control of congress.
In fact, I would argue that it is congress that will be more moderate than Obama. Obama didn't have coat-tails - the Democrats won 54-44 in congressional races, while Obama only won by 5 points. This also means that Democratic congressmen/women are winning in more conservative areas.
3. Hundreds of billions into deficit, America just fought an election framed around a series of meta-narratives and a debate over whether to cut taxes or cut taxes more. America has the same media, the same political institutions, the same everything - I just don't see how a "new politics" magically appears (McCain or Clinton certainly wouldn't have done so). That is unfortunate, because it implies America's decline will continue (the rest of the world may relish that briefly, but not after pondering the consequences of that).
Whatever happens over the next two years or so, however, is about to get crowned as the new magic formula for economics. A recovery that would happen anyway is about to be credited with whatever policies are enacted, so the issues matter a great deal. They just didn't get a lot of airtime (one of McCain's dumbest moves too - he made up ground when he talked about 1. the surge 2. offshore oil drilling, he did badly with his stupid life story tour in early summer 2008.
4. I really don't think symbols matter. Policies matter. I fail to see how Obama's election makes anything but symbolic progress on the racial equality issue, and can see how the opposite could happen. On CNN Bill Bennett (who is kind of an asshole) spun Obama's election as an argument against affirmative action, for instance (I am not a big fan of affirmative action, but Bennett's reasoning is part of the dangerous "America elected a black president and is therefore not racist" way of thinking).
5. It matters how a party loses. The GOP was licked pretty hard, but remains able to win if the Democrats face scandals or recessions (the reverse of the past 40 years). The primary system, where the party base drives candidate selection, fueled more by ideological purity than winnability (the latter produces moderate candidates, which dominated American politics in the convention days). The Republicans need to reinvent themselves, but I can almost hear the chant already:
-"we lost because we weren't Republican enough - we need to hate minorities more"
-The booing of Obama at McCain's rallies and concession speech are a sign of such divisions, certainly encouraged by candidate McCain, but abetted by the likes of Matt Drudge.
To the above, I would add that the good people of Alaska appear to have re-elected a convict. WTF?
Labels: No we can't