04 November 2008

Obama Is (Probably) My President

For reasons that, I have to admit, mystify me, we're about to elect Barack Obama president. He wouldn't be my first choice; neither would John McCain, but he's much closer to the top of the list. But if Obama is elected, I wish him all the best: may he have a peaceful and prosperous presidency. If he is elected, he will be my president (although the idea of a personal president is also somewhat baffling). If he is elected, I won't drive around with a bumper sticker that says, "1/20/12," although I might be tempted by a bumper sticker that says, "Don't Blame Me, I Voted For Sarah."

If, like me, you believe that the United States is exceptional and if you agree with Chancellor Bismarck that God has a special providence for the United States, then we have to assume that electing Obama president is exceptional and not inconsistent with God's special providence until it is proven otherwise. We've prospered under Presidents much less intelligent and more wrong-headed than Senator Obama.

Finally, if, like me, you think that slavery is our original sin and the only distinctly American failing, then electing Senator Obama president has to be seen as a hopeful sign. Whatever hold socialism and political correctness have achieved in the United States they've achieved through the wounds opened by slavery. If electing Senator Obama president can help us close those wounds, then I cannot wholly regret his election.

I voted for John McCain and I hope he wins. I think a McCain presidency will be better for the nation than an Obama presidency. But I am not a leftist; I don't mistake my personal whims for universal truth and I accept that there are other explanations for history not walking my preferred path than the evil conspiracies of those who disagree with me.

We often say that the glory of the United States -- the heart of American exceptionalism -- is that ours is a nation built on an idea rather than on blood or conquest. The test of that idea is whether we can accept others as part of our nation based solely on whether they share our ideals, without regard to skin color or religion or country of origin. If we can't bring ourselves to include anyone as one of "us" if he believes what we believe and chooses to join us, then the American idea has failed.

Senator Obama is an American and, if he is elected, he will be an American president.

MORE: Well, there it is. Obama is my president-elect. In 2004, I really cared that George Bush beat John Kerry. I had a sick feeling in my stomach until finally Ohio was called for W. Tonight, no sick feeling. I'm disappointed but not emotionally invested. Is that because it's been clear for a while that McCain would lose, or is it that McCain was just good enough, or is it that President Obama does have its compensations? I'm not sure. How 'bout y'all? How sick does this make you?


aog said...

What if one has honest doubts about whether Senator Obama believes in the American ideals? For instance, he doesn't appear to believe much in free speech, or honest elections, or the rule of law.

David said...

If you have honest doubts, which I think are entirely reasonable, then you wait and see what he does as president. There's no point in replacing BDS with ODS and, even if there was a point, we're not leftists.

I think that Senator Obama is thin-skinned, that he's never been forcefully challenged politically, that he's only lived in political monocultures and that he's a politician rather than a Messiah. But if he's a politician, he's a skilled politician and that's not a bad thing in a president. Maybe he's been tamping down his inner radical all these years, but if so why should he stop now. The re-election campaign starts tomorrow.

Besides which, the nation isn't so fragile that it can be overturned by one man, even the president. Down that path ODS lies waiting.

aog said...

As I noted over at Brothers Judd, what I actually fear most is what an unrestrained Congress with a party organ press will do. Obama has been a sock puppet his entire political life, and I don't see why that would change if he's elected President.

I also don't think he's a skilled politician. The very fact that you mention, that Obama has never been forcefully challenged politically, shows that he has had no need of skill.

But if you want me to wait and see, I will wait to see what Obama does about the rampant voting shenanigans. That will tell the tale.

P.S. Which reminds me that I have been meaning to write a post on how the failure to use the law enforcement powers of the federal executive branch to step on this sort of vote fraud is the second biggest failure of the Bush Administration (after "failure to communicate").

David said...

I agree with you about Congress and that Obama is a go along to get along kind of Democrat. But just like a moron can't be elected president, an unskilled politician can't be elected president.

Hey Skipper said...

I predict Obama will win.

I predict Democrat majorities in Congress will increase.

I predict the world will not end as a consequence.

Obama clearly is not my first choice. But if it helps put paid to the victim mentality so prevalent among MGAs (Melanin Gifted Americans), then his becoming President won't be an entirely bad thing.

David said...

For conservatives, "not entirely a bad thing" is giddy optimism.

aog said...

"an unskilled politician can't be elected president"

And no candidate can be elected without microscopic exploration of his entire life, either. Obama is rewriting the rules.

Bret said...

david wrote: "Besides which, the nation isn't so fragile that it can be overturned by one man, even the president."

Though I have to say the sequence Johnson, Nixon, ..., Carter seemed to me to be starting to push the limits of what the nation can withstand.

The consolation to me is that I think the next few months to couple of years might be tricky economically and I'm not sure McCain is up to the task either. If things are kinda crappy for the next four years, it might as well be Obama who gets the credit.

jim hamlen said...

Obama doesn't scare me (that much), although his talk tonight was way too FDR for me. If he is all ego and all lefty mush, it will be a long 4 years.

Clinton had an ego, too - but he was a cad and a good ol' boy and sly and all that, and he didn't ever seem to think he was above it all. Obama has yet to mix it up with anyone (Hillary doesn't really count, given that half the party hated her, and when she and Obama really fought for votes, she won hands down).

The arrogance is bothersome, though, because it reminds me of Nixon at his worst. Krauthammer noted tonight that Obama does not exhibit humility at all. That is a worry, because even Clinton faked it.

Peter Burnet said...

David, it's funny you should mention '04 in comparison. I remember that night well and even I was heavily invested. There was a sense of existential threats and challenges that seems to have completely dissipated, even on blogs. Both up here and down there I will remember '08 as the year the decent, independant voter in the middle told the panic-mongering ideologues on both sides to take a hike.

Hey Skipper said...

I will remember '08 as the year the decent, independant voter in the middle told the panic-mongering ideologues on both sides to take a hike.

Hmmm. I think you are on to something.

Ali said...

Obama's too cautious to make a real hash of things and any major overreach by the Dems will result in them being electorally punished in '10. Hearing the BBC news repeatedly say this was the most challenging in-tray a new president had faced since the Depression induced one eye-roll after the other.

I couldn't get too invested in this campaign. Spent all night in 2004 watching the coverage, this year I just took a quick look at Google News before heading off to work. McCain's woeful campaign and poverty of any agenda drained enthusiasm. I didn't like the Palin pick one bit. And I have to say W didn't perform to the expectations I had in '00 and '04.

aog said...

That presumes that Obama is the only actor who can make a hash of things. One might ask "who else could cause disasters, and will Obama be too cautious to stop them?". There are plenty of foreign actor candidates for that, but domestically we need look no further than Pelosi, Reid, and Frank.

Harry Eagar said...

What in the world do you think is distinctively American about slavery, other than the fact that ours was the first nation ever in history to outlaw the slave trade in its organic law.

As for hash, Obama is inheriting hash. I suppose it might be possible to screw things up worse than Bush did, but to do it would take someone above O's pay grade.

aog said...

Wasn't the UK the first nation to outlaw the slave trade?

I think it was quite possible to have made a far larger hash of things than Bush did. I am supremely confident that either Al Gore or John Kerry could have managed it. I think Obama has it in him to stand by, being "present", while things fall apart, but that Pelosi/Reid/Frank will do the heavy hashing so Obama doesn't have to.

Harry Eagar said...

Nope, it was us. The effect of the law was delayed 20 years, to take effect in 1807. In that year, Denmark also outlawed the trade.

But we were first. You'd be surprised how few Americans know this, although it ought to be one of our two proudest claims. And it's right there in the Constitution, along with the other one nobody knows, (Art. VI, freedom of government from religion).

We are a radically conservative nation. (The radical elements were inherited from the colonial constitutions, so in a sense the Founding Fathers were conserving their heritage, even though that heritage -- no king, no state religion, no legal classes {this last still not quite worked out] -- was fabulously liberal and radical compared with everywhere else.)

You may be thinking about the English courts' ruling, before our Constitution, that the air of England maketh a man free, but that did not affect the legality of the slave trade.

aog said...

I am aware of that law, but it only forbade the import of slaves. It did nothing about the domestic slave market which continued to function until the end of the Civil War. So I think "banned the slave trade" is clearly an inaccurate description.

Peter Burnet said...

Sorry, Harry, gotta throw down a gauntlet there. The U.S. past a law banning the trade on March 3rd, 1807 to take effect January 1st, 1808. The Brits passed it March 25th to take effect May 1st, 1807, so I suggest they won. The other factor is that they were serious about it.

Harry Eagar said...

But the law was required to be passed back in 1787. An odd approach but indicative of the political skills of the Framers.

I'll take your point, Guy, about the internal markets, but the expectation (wrong, as it turned out) was that by eliminating the external trade, the internal trade would die out through -- ready for this? -- market forces, as it had in England and, to a large extent, the Muslim world for lack of new blood.

Since nobody else, ever, had even attempted to interfere in the slave trade on moral grounds, I am willing to cut the Framers some slack on the learning curve.

David said...

I'm amazed that their are Americans who don't know that we invented slavery.

Ali said...

Emperor Akbar abolished slavery in India back in the 1500s.

aog said...

Mr. Eagar;

Instead, the market does what it does best, it adjusted to deal with lack of external supply by developing an internal one. That brings up one aspect of slavery in America, which is that it was apparently the only place that didn't treat its slaves so harshly they could not maintain their population.

Mr Choudhury;

Did Akbar's ban stick after his reign? Did he forbid just the trade or slavery in toto?

Harry Eagar said...

Slaves in the Upper South maintained and even expanded their population after the collapse of tobacco cultivation there, because there were no sufficiently onerous latifundia operations to kill them off.

So, as you say, the surplus was sold down the river, where they did not maintain themselves.

I'd avoid getting into discussions about whose slavery was least offensive.

Orrin does this, because of his concern to abrade the warts off Islam. This is a rarish instance of Orrin aligning himself with the multicultis. Curiously, the raving orientalist Bernard Lewis takes the same position.

There are not a lot of issues on which Orrin Judd, Lord Acton, Bernard Lewis and the faculties of the Schools of African-American Studies are in full agreement, but this is one.

As for Akbar's decree, I'd surround it with various catches, because of the nature of coerced labor among the Hindus. Slavery exists under many names that pretend to be not-slavery.

David Brion Davis required 2 700-page books just to list the alias in my culture ('The Problem of Slavery in Western Society.')

aog said...

"I'd avoid getting into discussions about whose slavery was least offensive."

I was more thinking that it's evidence that American slavery wasn't uniquely horrible. I frequently see such comparisons in that form but never the other way around.

Harry Eagar said...

Yes, the argument is framed that, say, slavery among African Muslims was benign because the slaves were treated as (poorly compensated) members of the family.

Hugh Thomas makes hash of this duplicitous story. Mansa Musa, for example, who is now presented to American schoolchildren as a worthy example of a great and powerful African leader, financed his hajj be selling 14,000 girls in the Cairo slave market.

We may be allowed to doubt that many of those girls were treated just like members of the family.

That said, the difference between saying that American slavery was not uniquely and prettifying it as 'not that bad' is pretty small.

American slavery was bad. 'Nuff said.