The Great Election of 2008 is over. Barack Obama is the 44th President of the United States.
Now is the time to ask what this election was about.
Here’s what this election was (set ital) not (end ital) about: Barack Obama. It was not about his record: He didn’t have one. It was not about his views, which are radical in the extreme. It was not about his associations: Americans didn’t care about Wright, Ayers, or Khalidi. The media didn’t want Americans to know about Obama. Obama didn’t want Americans to know about Obama. And Americans didn’t want to know about Obama.
This election was not about John McCain. No one cared about McCain, except the liberal media that nominated him president after one win in New Hampshire.
This election was not about President George W. Bush. Bush was used as a punching bag by both sides -- and by election time, he was completely irrelevant.
And this election was certainly not about the issues. In the general election, Barack Obama campaigned as a centrist, titularly abandoning his more extreme positions to do so. He lied about his policies. And no one cared.
This election was about one thing and one thing only: Americans’ puerile need for unity through self-congratulatory, cathartic membership in a broad, transformative political movement.
For eight years, Americans have been engaged in hostile politics. And after eight years, Americans were sick of it.
That isn’t to America’s credit. Hostile politics -- hard-fought political conflict over the issues that matter -- is not a bad thing. It is precisely the sort of messy republicanism the founders embraced. Early elections were replete with mudslinging, character assassination, brawls and scandals. They were also replete with some of the most substantive debate on policy ever put before mankind.
Apparently, we’re no longer interested in the dirty business of politics. We’d rather feel ourselves part of a high-minded movement. Not the sort of movement that espouses particular policies -- not the antiwar movement, or the pro-life movement -- those movements are too divisive. We want to be part of a movement that is solely about us.
Barack Obama was the vessel for that movement. He was an utter cipher. But he embodied the need of the American public for unity by hearkening back to the ultimate unifying feature of American life: third-grade slogans. He spouted Hope and Change. He told us, “We’re All Americans.” He told us, “Yes, We Can.”