The most liberal U.S. Senator, Barack Obama of Illinois, won a huge victory yesterday over John McCain.
It wasn’t over until 11 pm when Obama went over the minimum 270 electoral votes by winning California, but the early results — Pennsylvania going for Obama at 8:30 pm EST and Ohio an hour later — were really all that Obama needed to win to make it impossible for McCain to eke out a narrow victory.
Pennsylvania — along with Florida, Ohio, and Virginia were crucial to McCain’s chances. No Republican ever won the White House without winning Ohio, and John McCain was no exception.
Even my home state of Virginia — which hadn’t voted for a Democrat since Lyndon Johnson in 1964 — went for Obama. Eight years ago, George Bush carried Virginia by 56% to 41% for Al Gore. Florida, too, went for Obama narrowly.
Out of 538 electoral votes, Barack Obama won by a huge margin. After one a.m. the count, though incomplete, was 338 to 158. The popular vote was much closer, about 52% to 48%. This was the first time a Democratic presidential candidate earned more than 50% of the popular vote since Jimmy Carter in 1976. On this vote, Obama will claim a mandate for all his big-spending ideas.
Call it an earthquake, call it an electoral landslide, call it whatever you like. John McCain struck out even among key Republican constituencies such as evangelical Christians.
Though we’ll be analyzing the data for weeks and months to come, it appears that Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin didn’t have the effect McCain intended. She may have excited parts of the Republican base for some brief time, but her influence wasn’t nearly enough to turn out many of the key conservative constituencies for the Republican ticket. And those constituencies were never comfortable with John McCain. The evangelical vote in Ohio should have been enough to win that state, but Palin apparently didn’t earn their votes.
McCain’s concession speech, which came at about 11:20 pm, was gracious. He called upon all Americans to show pride in their nation and pledged to help Obama reach compromises to solve the nation’s problems.
Obama’s midnight acceptance speech was another crowd-pleaser. He, too, was gracious but there was an edge: his chant of “yes, we can??? was coupled to his promises of new entitlement programs for health care and college tuition for all.
But President-elect Obama is still an enigma: we really don’t know him well enough to know if he will make any effort to restrain his liberal ideology (and that of his overheated party leaders in Congress). By every measure we know, it appears that he will not.
In the Congressional lame duck session later this month, we’ll see a preview of next year. Nothing other than Republican filibusters will stop Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid from passing their entire agenda. President Bush will have to limber up his veto pen. We will learn a lot about the president-elect by what he says and does in this brief time.
Next year, we must expect the worst. Pelosi and Reid will — in Obama’s first one hundred days — pass a whole litany of extreme liberal measures. The infamous “card check??? bill, which will deprive workers of the secret ballot in choosing to unionize, will certainly pass. The offshore oil drilling ban will be back. And there will be another “stimulus??? package of borrowed money.
Barack Obama will support them all and ask for more. We can expect all that aren’t filibustered in the Senate to pass. As Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) made clear, the “Fairness Doctrine??? will be re-imposed to throttle conservative talk radio.
Schumer — in a recent Fox News interview — mocked the network’s “fair and balanced??? motto and compared talk radio to pornography. Schumer said, “The very same people who don’t want the Fairness Doctrine want the FCC [Federal Communications Commission] to limit pornography on the air. I am for that??? But you can’t say government hands off in one area to a commercial enterprise but you are allowed to intervene in another.???
Is Rush Limbaugh pornographic? Only someone who wants to destroy conservative talk radio could make that comparison. The First Amendment will be under attack as never before. We will defend it, and — thanks to the Roberts court — our defense will succeed.
And we must take Obama at his word. We will withdraw precipitously from Iraq and — for all his bold talk — Obama will not commit long to the war against the Taliban. And he will not resist Barney Franks’ call to cut military spending. What our armed forces desperately need will be forfeited to pay for whatever liberal spending plans are to be imposed upon us.
Despite all this, the conservative phoenix will rise, quickly, from the ashes of the McCain campaign and the Bush administration. It’s up to us, and we will gladly meet this challenge.
It’s a very good bet that Barack Obama will be a one-term president if Republicans recover from this awful campaign. The challenges of the war, our economic crisis and the realities of Washington politics won’t permit him to do all he wants to do. When America sees who he really is — the most liberal candidate ever elected — we will resist. Republicans must deny him the usual congressional “honeymoon.???
But the challenges facing the Republican Party are just as great. The Party will have to define– and correct — the problems that got it where it is today.
In his concession, McCain said his campaign was “challenged???: it was, by the baggage of the Bush administration, an unpopular war and the financial crisis that broke in the last months of the two-year struggle. And McCain was the wrong man to meet these challenges against the Obama phenomenon.
In 1996, it was Bob Dole’s turn to run for president, and the Republicans nominated the affable Dole who ran the worst campaign in memory. In 2008, it was John McCain’s turn. Affable, maverick, formerly a favorite of the Washington press corps, John McCain’s campaign was no better than Dole’s.
Republicans — allowing huge cross-over Democratic and independent votes in the early primaries — enabled those voters to choose a candidate who is not a conservative. The Republican Rules Committee has, in its most recent departure from reality, renewed those same rules for 2012. The rules must be changed. The Democrats require anyone who votes in their primaries to at least sign a statement that they’re Democrats. Republicans must make all their primaries closed to non-Republicans or Democrats and independents will do in 2012 what they did this year.
McCain never campaigned on issues and lost as Republicans always do when they fail to focus the contest on Democrats’ liberal ideology. He was a poor choice to do this because his own ideology is not conservative: his political successes have all been achieved by compromising with liberals. That is a poor foundation on which to build the coalition of conservatives and socially-conservative Democrats that is essential to winning the White House.
If Republicans fail to nominate a candidate in 2012 who is solidly — reflexively — conservative they will lose again.
For the next few days or weeks or months, Republicans will play the blame game over their failure this year. They should make it short, because that time that would be better spent on reorienting the Party to conservative principles.
Cong. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc) got it right last night. He said the Republicans need a housecleaning. They need to reclaim the title of the “party of big ideas.??? Those ideas have to be conservative ideas: smaller government, strong defense, and individual freedom.
It would be a cardinal mistake for Republicans to start rallying around one possible 2012 candidate or another. If the Party rallies around principle, that person will arise. The conservative foundation is there, ready to be built upon. Let’s get to it.