While I am a die-hard McCain supporter and Republican who believes deep down that electing Obama to the presidency will weaken the United States economically and militarily, I think its worth considering as objectively as possible whether any good could come out of an Obama win next month. Given the white-hot rhetoric at this point in the election it’s almost impossible to imagine anything good coming out of the election of the most liberal US senator to the Presidency without the constraints of a strong opposition party. But given the poll numbers it’s worth a try.
For the past forty years a large segment of the American population has been alienated from politics to the point where the most common public enemy in our culture is the American government itself. The United States government regularly plays the “bad guy” role in Hollywood movies, and TV shows from the X-files to the more recent 24 have the heroes battling against a government which knows everything and attempts to silence its critics using all means at its disposal. These anti-government conspiracy themes, once exclusive to the extremist right wing, have gone mainstream thanks to two generations of anti-government propaganda in the schools, newspapers, magazines, movies, music and nearly all forms of media. What once motivated only the likes of Timothy McVeigh has now become mainstream.
The distrust of authority is not new. In fact one could argue that it appeared at the genesis of the country as the oppressed fled their homelands in Europe for new lives and less interference in the New World. In fact distrust of government could be thought of as a common interest between Left and Right although for different reasons. While the Left distrusts the military industrial complex it paradoxically expects a check every month from its social services arm. The Right is the opposite, pouring money and power into the military while starving federal bureaucracies. Nevertheless there is a contradiction at the core of both political wings: both distrust the government with some things yet trust it completely.
Many of Obama’s backers have been disenfranchised from politics for generations. Voting and seeing the results of their actions should prove that the system works for everyone – not just the wealthy. So far Obama has campaigned against an unpopular lame duck two-term sitting president. Upon his inauguration a President Obama would have to lead. This will require making choices, each of which will leave just as many unhappy people as pleased ones. His popularity will inevitably wane as his supporters realize that he is not a messaianic figure, just a normal politician that has risen to meteoric heights quickly through luck as much as political acumen. It is better for the schooling in political reality of the newly empowered to occur by their own man than his opponent.
The press and the mainstream media has openly championed the Obama candidacy. An Obama presidency would force the media to make a choice: Resume its antagonistic Fourth Estate role towards power or give up and become the propaganda outlet of the government. Faced with this hard choice some media outlets would no doubt opt for the former (newspaper outlets) while others like Jann Wenner’s rags would no doubt continue to mythologize an Obama presidency just as it has the Obama candidacy.
Budget reality – a deficit of 3% of GDP and rising heading into a recession – will constrain Obama’s spending programs much more effectively than an opposition wielding the fillibuster.
An Obama presidency will purge the last vestiges of the Clinton machine from the Democrats. Even a reality-chastened Obama will enter 2012 much stronger than the junior senator from New York, so it’s unlikely that Sen. Hillary Clinton will be able to mount a formidable challenge to his reelection as Reagan was able to do in 1976 against Gerald Ford and Ted Kennedy was able to do four years later during the Democratic primaries against President Jimmy Carter.
President George W. Bush has become a figure of hatred in the eyes of many both here and abroad. His replacement in office by Barack Obama, a figure that is viewed favorably abroad, would at least serve to temper rising anti-Americanism among our allies in Europe and South America. This would also take some of the allure away from Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez and Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad; while the Bush administration has been successful at wielding hard power of the military, it has been much less successful at using soft power such as the international media to further American interests abroad. An Obama presidency could give the appearance of change while America’s military might remained.
Iraq is relatively stable and quiet going into an Obama presidency. If in a year or two it destabilizes then Republicans could capitalize on the situation using the meme “Obama lost Iraq.” If it remains stable, then the Bush presidency will look less a disaster than it has been portrayed by the media, although the “success” in Iraq will no doubt be attributed to Obama. For those of us who have never waivered in our support of a free and democratic Iraq, it doesn’t matter who gets the credit as long as Iraq thrives.
Which brings us to terrorism. Terrorism is Obama and the Democrats Achilles Heel. Any successful attack on US soil under an Obama presidency would force the Democrats to “own” this issue in a way that they haven’t done in opposition to Bush. Under the Bush administration Democrats have used their opposition status to champion the closure of Guantanamo Bay and the extension of civil liberties to terrorism suspects without bearing the responsibility of those policies. This would change if and when a terrorist attack occurred on Obama’s watch. While the 9-11 Report blamed the policy failures of the prior administrations for the event, the public and many commentators viewed the attacks as such a shock that they gave a pass to those who formulated policies that allowed the attacks to happen. Such forgiveness would not occur to an Obama administration that failed to take the lessons of the 9-11 Commission to heart. Either the adminstration would swing further to the far left to justify this failure, which would result in its removal from office in the next election or worse, impeachment, or it would advocate many of the same policies the Democrats opposed under the Bush administration.
Finally, the complete loss of power would force some much needed Republican soul searching. Either the party will return to the ideals of small government and fiscal responsibility that swept Reagan to power in 1980 or it will die and be replaced by a new conservative party. Such “creative destruction” is common in the free market beloved by Republicans, so it should be embraced when it applies to a political party. With a rejuvenated Republican Party or a completely new opposition party, either way the nation will be strengthened.
America is nothing if not resilient, and to absorb the rhetoric that Obama will ruin it makes Obama appear stronger than he really is, and America weaker. It has survived numerous wars and economic collapses. It has weathered bad presidents and managed to thrive. It will survive an Obama presidency and even be made stronger if those of us who oppose him recognize the opportunities that his presidency present us and use them to our full ability.