Change is coming. The question is what kind of change. I have a few predictions, but first a few observations. If you follow this blog, you will recognize most of what follows.
Observation #1: This is a truly historic election (and it should be celebrated both that an African American and a woman – for the second time - were on major party tickets). It is phenomenal that we have elected an ethnic minority, a Black, as President one hundred and sixty years after the Civil War, forty years after Dr. King's "I have a Dream" speech.
Observation #2: The Obama campaign is truly historical in funds raised and spent. It might be argued his supporters bought the election. His opponents can complain about his broken word about Federal matching funds, but his funds were apparently raised in a most democratic fashion.
Observation #3: Obama was as negative as McCain, i.e., he spent as much or more money on negative ads. On top of that he was effective in attacking McCain for being negative because most people already perceived McCain as being more negative. As I have sometimes said, “if you have to back-bite against somebody, make it a back-biter; you can always get away with that.” His portrait of McCain as being negative typically transitioned to a self portrait as a uniter (bridge builder) which was immediately followed by a blasting of conservatives as those who divide.
Observation #4: Gender prejudice is stronger than racism in this country. This was seen in the Democratic primaries and the race that followed. Regardless of what you think about Governor Palin, the media was biased against her and much of that was gender based. To some degree this was to be expected because she came from nowhere and had not been vetted on a national level, but the feeding frenzy highlighted the bias. Her words were often twisted while Joe Biden was given a free ride on his open gaffs. Consider the level of coverage of the one investigator’s conclusion she violated ethics standards in the trooper gate events with the level of coverage on the commission that recently concluded to the contrary. (I suspect most people did not even know a report was just released to that effect.)
Observation #5: McCain ran a poor campaign until the final days. He seemed lost when the focus shifted from Iraq to the economy. Obama had clearly prepared for that shift. History (a favorite subject of McCain’s) reveals McCain should have anticipated the shift and had a strategy in his back pocket. During a term limitation transition, no incumbent party has retained the White House during an economic downturn in the last century.
Observation #6: Obama could not have won without the support of a sizable number of Evangelical Christians. I applaud the shift away from being single issue voters. It is well past time they became concerned about war, social needs and the environment. However, I despair in their failure to take a stand on the single issue that will determine the fate of the weakest members of our society, late-term abortions. In light of his openly stated positions on abortion, the homosexual agenda, and judicial appointments, all who voted for him must share in the responsibility for the change both good and bad that is coming.
Observation #7: Obama won this election through an appeal to classism. In a time of economic uncertainty he pitted the middle class against the upper class. His and Biden’s appeal to fairness in taxation failed to present the case for why it is fair for the more affluent to pay a significantly higher tax rate. Instead they relied on the emotions of difficult times to argue for them.
Observation #8: Both parties ignored the needs of the poor and marginalized. Even their arguments for improved healthcare, centered on the needs of the working middle class.
Observation #9: McCain did considerably better than the polls indicated.
Observation #10: In spite of my philosophical pessimism, this election is good for democracy. The inclusion of masses of a new generation and record numbers of minorities offers the hope of greater inclusion in all aspects of our society.
Prediction #1: The transition will be nearly flawless. The fly in the ointment might be if Obama is perceived as acting as if he is already President especially in international economic affairs. Obama’s appointments will be diverse representatives of the sectors that elected him with more than one moderate Republicans in high positions. He will get off to a good start.
Prediction #2: Obama will keep many of his promises. With the support of a Democratically controlled congress, he will claim a mandate to push through his agenda. There will be a flurry of passed legislation. At the front will be commitments to energy and the environment. He will push through the Freedom of Choice Act overturning any states ability to restrict abortions and thereby increasing the number of abortions, including partial-birth and other late-term abortions. The number of late term abortions will go up significantly. However, Republicans in Congress will become more vocal and articulate in their conservative philosophy.
Prediction #3: Obama will get his tax proposals and related programs approved. In some cases he will get more than he promised. In terms of healthcare, he will get most of what he wants but the debates will heat up. All of this will prolong the economic downturn, although there will probably be a short-lived upturn from now through the first six months of his Presidency. Unemployment will increase. Before his Presidency ends, the middle class tax cuts will be more than lost through increases in indirect taxes. Many of our trade treaties will be rewritten; we will become much more protectionist and trade will never-the-less become more unbalanced. In the end, the economy will improve because “the fundamentals are sound.”
Prediction #4: Obama will attempt to keep his promise and push for a repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act. It will be close but the reversal will fail. Congress will bow to the will of their constituents. – This may be wishful thinking.
Prediction #5: Obama will appoint at least one activist judge to the Supreme Court, more if given a chance.
Prediction #6: Obama’s honeymoon with Congress will end in a couple of years with battles over fiscal restraint (balancing the budget) and that centering on a coalition of Republicans and the “Blue Dog” Democrats in Congress. Like Bill Clinton before him, he will shift (but less noticably than Clinton) toward the middle.
Prediction #7: Joe Biden was correct; Obama will be tested by an international threat early in his Presidency. Actually, there will be more than one crisis. Israel will bomb Iran’s nuclear facilities during his first two years and the world will deem his response his response to be too little, too slow, and too complicit.
Prediction #8: President Obama will excel in international relations except Islamic nations, Russia, and Latin America (which will be put off by his protectionism). In short, he will be phenomenal with our Western Allies and most of Africa; he will be less than stellar with our enemies, especially Islamic nations. This will seem strange to many given his unique connection with Islam. I truly hope I am wrong on this. He has the best personal gifts for diplomacy that I have seen in a political leader. (My problem is not his ability, but his direction.)
Prediction #9: Our troops will leave Iraq during the first two years of Obama’s term; things will go poorly for that country as they will not be ready for full self-governance and internal security. America’s standing in the region will continue to decline.
Prediction #10: Obama, as promised, will increase our presence in Afghanistan. He will act unilaterally to attack Al-Qaeda sites in other countries. Our relationship with Pakistan and Syria will especially continue to deteriorate.
Prediction #11: During this term President Obama will engage American military might in some other country, ostensibly for humanitarian purposes.
Prediction #12: The roll of minorities in American politics has been forever changed for the good. The days of the Caucasian, good-old-boys-club-in-power is over. Minorities will rise in leadership in both parties but especially conservatives in the Republican Party. – Perhaps some delusional wishful thinking here. The Parties will become more ideologically defined and stress ethnic coalitions with a greater social purpose.
Prediction #13: The world will not come to an end on January 20, 2009. Conservatism is not dead. Obama will in many ways be an outstanding President effectively motivating Americans to consider the future in ways we never have.
Prediction #14: Sarah Palin will not vanish into the polar night; she will soon be a Senator from Alaska. John McCain will become more of a statesman in the Congress reaching out to help Obama cross the isle.
Well, I’m out on a limb on a lot of things. Most of these predictions are well considered. Some are more off the cuff. Somebody hold me accountable for their accuracy.