If your candidate lost, I offer my condolences. From 2000-2008, I lived with the frustration of an administration that didn’t match me politically or spiritually. It’s too early to tell what an Obama presidency will bring, but there is great news. He is not a socialist, communist or terrorist. He’s not anti-American, elitist or a dim-witted celebrity. He’s not Hollywood, not a slick-talking politician willing to do anything for a vote; he’s not even smooth.
In unscripted speeches, Obama pauses frequently, uses “ums” as placeholders and accents words in a way that create unintended periods in the middle of his sentences. The New York Times Magazine’s Matthew Bai followed the president-elect through coal country and writes, “Obama gives the impression that he’s going to show up and make his case, and if you don’t fall in love with him, well, he’ll just have to pick up the pieces and go on.”
There's no way to predict what a president-elect will pursue, so we rely on the only thing that counts: our opinion. There are a whole bunch of elated people right now and an almost-equal number not quite so much. In dedication to an inevitably bittersweet electorate, here are two columns.
Obama’s case is not faith-based, and that’s a good thing. It means our next president will be able to work with policymakers who don’t share his religious views and who may not be considered friends. As Obama noted in his 2004 dismantling of Alan Keyes, personal faith doesn’t always translate well into public policy. The United States is too diverse for a politician’s deeply personal feelings to be efficiently channeled into productive lawmaking. Obama is a religious man, though, and as we found out through the Jeremiah Wright narrative, he goes to church. He told Bai, “This is a nation of believers, and I’m one of them.”
Obama is not ultra-liberal or even really a liberal. His policies will likely be rooted in nonpartisan utilitarianism, which — let me peel off a label here — would make him a progressive moderate. In addition to a plurality of the popular and electoral vote, Obama attracted endorsements from Ken Adelman, a member of the Pentagon’s Defense Policy Board and a former Reagan adviser; Doug Kmiec, a legal counsel for Reagan and George H.W. Bush and a columnist for the Catholic News Service; Lawrence Korb, Reagan’s assistant secretary of defense; David Ruder, Reagan-appointed former chair of the SEC; and Paul Volcker, chairman of the Federal Reserve under Reagan. Colin Powell, Warren Buffett, professional wrestlers Hulk Hogan and Mick Foley, Emmitt Smith and poker legend Doyle Brunson — endorsements. Kirbyjon Caldwell, President Bush’s spiritual adviser and the man who gave him inaugural benedictions in 2001 and 2005, endorsed Barack Obama. Sam Maverick’s granddaughter did too.
Obama is a Washington outsider, free from weighted friendships and longstanding feuds that channel partisanship. He’s not going to invite Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer over for Skittles just because they’re Democrats, and I’d like to think Mitt Romney will be up front on his Rolodex. I expect Obama to be a lot like Michael Bloomberg, the Massachusetts-to-New York mayor who also bypassed public campaign funding.
Bloomberg flat-out just doesn’t care about party lines (lifelong Democrat, ran as a Republican, now an independent) or media bytes. He’ll sit down with Hasidic Jews (uh-oh, extremist?) but still support the Patriot Act (maybe, but at least he’s our extremist). He frowns on union strikes but only accepts a $1 salary. Obama will take on issues case-by-case. He won’t take away guns, won’t fight against religion, won’t make America into a pacifist welfare state.
The Obama presidency will also be good for the Republican Party. Without serious competition for Bush’s first six years and with consolidated, bad leadership throughout, it lost its conservative steam. Give the GOP four years of Democratic competition, and it should be vigorous again to better serve its constituents.
Greg T. Spielberg is a graduate student at the Missouri School of Journalism and a former assistant city editor for the Columbia Missourian.