Elections can be good or bad, but they are to some extent clarifying. And that, at least, is good.
So, what is clear after this election? Voters like Democrats a lot better than they like Republicans. And, frankly, voters don’t particularly care for Democrats.
Democrats, having captured the White House and increased the majorities in both chambers of Congress, may quibble about the precise degree they inspire adoration. But the recent, historically low approval ratings for the Democratic Congress suggest their gains came less from their own popularity and more from an electorate simply not finished repudiating the GOP . . . good and hard.
Thus, if Democrats govern by presumed mandate, their reign will likely be short. That is if the Republican Party were to offer voters a real choice by standing for something voters want.
What could that be? A return to their republican roots by advancing ideas such as reasonably limited government, the rule of law, free enterprise, low taxes and basic fairness.
As long as the choice remains between big, bloated, arrogant government and more of the same, well, it’s going to remain hard to pull a lever for freedom and prosperity.
Not so clear was the choice between Senators Barack Obama and John McCain. They both favored the financial bailout, the biggest issue of the campaign. Obama coolly supported the $700 billion economic quick trick, while McCain supported it while erratically suspending his campaign and canceling a debate, only to end up not suspending his campaign or actually skipping the debate.
The economic crisis swallowed the homestretch to this election, drawing the public’s attention away from other matters such as energy or foreign policy. So while polls showed most voters favoring the McCain view on energy policy, few determined their vote accordingly.
Due to the relative success of the surge, the Iraq War faded as an issue, even as the conflict remained unpopular. While increasing violence in Afghanistan brought that war more into the public consciousness, again Obama and McCain favored the same solution: send in more U.S. troops.
We can all celebrate the symbolism of Obama’s election, rejoicing in the progress our society has made from slavery through a century of racist public policies to the civil rights movement and most recently to electing a black man as president in a country where blacks represent only 13.4 percent of the population. Just as we cheer that the color of Obama’s skin matters not, we must realize that his actual policies matter very much.
But few Americans know what his policies are.