On Nov. 4, the people elected Democratic Party candidate Barack Obama president. As your resident evil, mean-spirited and conservative Republican, I am disappointed; however, as an American, I accept and respect the voters' decision. He is my president-elect.
That I can set aside my dissatisfaction so quickly should not surprise anyone who pays attention to the philosophy made clear in my writings. I was reared in a family and a community that respected legitimately constituted authority. Further, to behave as 2-year-olds in the face of adversity was not acceptable conduct. Also, my 1957 oath, given freely without mental reservation or purpose of evasion "to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies foreign and domestic" remains a binding one.
For many of my generation and persuasion, it is not easy to reconcile the selection of a young and relatively untested Obama over a well-respected elder statesman and war hero as ommander in chief. Before Election Day, I was cautiously optimistic that the polls, overly influenced by media hype and glory, had exaggerated the potential voter turnout. But, by mid-morning Tuesday, I found myself not only wrong but also guilty of gross misjudgment.
As I have for the past 15 years, I spent Election Day as a judge at my assigned Boone County polling place, a Columbia location at which the highest previous turnout totaled some 400 voters in the 2004 presidential election. The 2008 tally included nearly 1,500 voters, about 90 percent of whom were students in the 18 to 26 age group. Wednesday morning's count established that nearly 70 percent had opted for the senator from Illinois.
Accordingly, it should not pose any great difficulty to extrapolate from this occurrence that the youngest and most inexperienced block of voters selected the younger and least experienced candidate to lead the nation. Whether fit or folly is a determination that will be made at a much later date, but the die was cast by those empowered to do so who came out in huge numbers to be counted. And, as members of the electorate, if they find they erred, it will be their responsibility to change horses.
As one who observed these young people cast their votes over a period of 13 hours, while also enjoying the highly competent and enthusiastic assistance of five student poll workers at my precinct, I was favorably impressed by the gravity displayed by the individual voter and by the serious disposition of the student election judges assigned. The college and university students of today are not the wild-eyed fanatics we recall from the late 1960s and '70s; rather, they are responsible future stewards of the nation — having overcome the influence of professors who were those earlier campus radicals.
Barack Obama won the election with a clear majority of the popular vote along with a commanding majority in the Electoral College. Sen. McCain's concession was both gracious and sincere, a promise to reach across the aisle to work in the best interests of the country. President Bush was equally gracious in his congratulations and has already commenced operations to effect a smooth exchange of power. President-elect Obama will enjoy a longer honeymoon than most but, all too soon, his every move will be second guessed — primarily by a media composed of individuals whose most serious decision is whether to order the soup and salad or a sandwich for lunch.
By any measurement, the most visible and embarrassing stain on the American political process over the past 16 years has been the decidedly uncivil and uncourteous relations between the two major parties in Congress. Whether bashing the president or one another, or just engaging in mind-boggling and senseless disagreements over policies or personalities, the traits of common decency and respect are now endangered species.
If I could offer the incoming president just one suggestion, I would ask him to make Robert Fulghum's "All I ever needed to know, I learned in Kindergarten" required reading for members of the executive, legislative and judicial branches and the Democratic and Republican national committees as well. And, while it would probably be an exercise in futility, recommend also that all members of the media familiarize themselves with this simple, six paragraph treatise on sandbox behavior.
The Founding Fathers entrusted us with a Constitutional Republic that has endured, often in spite of us, for more than 300 years. We have elected a President who may or may not be the answer, but he is the president. It is high time that we and our elected representatives begin behaving as grown-ups.
J. Karl Miller retired as a colonel in the Marine Corps. He is a Columbia resident and can be reached via e-mail at JKarlUSMC@aol.com.