Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Is This the End of Partisan Politics?

For me, watching Barack Obama’s decisive victory was most satisfying. I found it to be an awful moment when someone as knowledgeable and intelligent like Al Gore lost to someone who appeared to me even back then to be a intellectual lightweight. And then there was the controversial way the election was resolved by a 5-4 Supreme Court decision that appeared to be divided based on partisan politics.

But that was OK. Surely enough people would catch on to President Bush and replace him with another knowledgeable and intelligent candidate like John Kerry. But enough people apparently felt that it wouldn’t be a good idea of replace a “War President” before the war was over — even if that president made an ill-advised decision to go to war in Iraq to begin with.

This year the Democrats put up still another candidate who was knowledgeable and intelligent. But this time, the candidate had what the previous two were lacking — the ability to excite and inspire. That was enough to finally get over that last hurdle and on to victory. For those studying political campaigns, I think what they will get out of this election is with all of the round-the-clock cable and Internet coverage devoted to campaigns, it’s awfully hard to win nowadays without creating enough ‘buzz’ or in plain language, excitement. Barack Obama’s great oration skills helped to create his buzz. And while John McCain’s VP choice of Sarah Palin seemed reckless then and even now, she certainly created a lot of buzz. A case could be made that if McCain had instead selected a more solid VP candidate, he may have never gotten as close to winning as he did with all of the excitement that the youthful Obama’s campaign was generating.

Since the polls before the election pretty much predicted an Obama rout, I was very curious to compare how the various cable networks were going to cover the evening. So in addition to my usual choices of CNN and MSNBC, I was especially curious on how right-leaning Fox News was going to cover what could well turn out to be a Republican meltdown so I kept the remote control in my hand the entire evening to switch between the three channels.

Of the three, Fox News provided the most surprises for me during their election coverage. For one thing, Sean Hannity and Bill O’Reilly were nowhere to be found. Were they excused for the evening to give Fox’s coverage a less partisan feel? Or did they not want to be there to endure and have to explain the likely beating at the hands of the liberals that was to come that evening? As Fox likes to say, You Decide.

Another surprise was how quickly Fox called the various races especially compared to the other networks. I thought that perhaps they would be in denial and put off calling Republican defeats as long as possible. But they called the crucial Pennsylvania and Ohio contests along with most of the other ones ahead of MSNBC while CNN seemed to be in its own time lag when announcing their projections.

The 10 o’clock (Eastern Time) hour pretty much foreshadowed the fat lady singing at 11 when the results from the West Coast Blue States would surely put Obama over the top. But since the results of these states cannot be talked about until the polls officially close, the networks had to pretend until then that the election wasn’t really over. But the folks over at Fox, even including Karl Rove said that the party was over and didn’t mince any words in saying it.

Finally at 11 o’clock (ET) when the California polls finally closed, everybody instantly announced the Obama victory (like we should have been surprised). At that point, I was especially interested to see how the right-wing pundits at Fox were going to behave. And that was to be my biggest surprise.

Overall, they were magnanimous in praising Obama for his victory and had nothing but good things to say about him. The host, Brit Hume said that all of the talk about Obama being dangerous doesn’t square up with the image he got from speaking to Obama in person. Bill Kristol and Karl Rove were similarly kind to Obama. Hey, don’t you guys remember that this was the guy who “pals around with terrorists”?

Even the reliably right-wing opinion page of the
Wall Street Journal started out their President-Elect Obama article with a “Hearty congratulations to President-elect Barack Obama.”

With Obama tirelessly talking about reaching across the aisle to Republicans, are we finally going to get past all of the partisan politics that has dominated the landscape in recent times? With things being in such bad shape, perhaps this provides the best incentive for both sides to work together and solve problems instead of engaging in gridlock.

Call me a cynic, but in my mind there is a powerful disincentive to bipartisan politics for the party that is out of power. Just suppose that President Obama with bipartisan support turns out to have a wonderfully productive four years. That would be great for America, but how would the Republicans ever recapture the White House? Or any of the seats in Congress they have lost.

Here are some post-election
comments from Republican House Minority Leader John Boehner:

The Republican leader acknowledged that those results are "deeply disappointing," as Democrats look likely to pick up more than 20 seats in the House. But he had a message for people who would like to see Republicans "surrender" and "give the new administration and the Democratic leaders of Congress a free pass":

"It ain't gonna happen," Boehner wrote colleagues in a letter distributed Wednesday. "It must not happen."

Despite Barack Obama's decisive win Tuesday night, Boehner argues that "America remains a center-right country."

"Democrats should not make the mistake of viewing Tuesday’s results as a repudiation of conservatism or a validation of big government," he says in the letter. "Neither should we."

And finally, I just had to check out Hannity & Colmes on Fox News the night after the election. And there as one of the guests was none other than Joe the Plumber who went into a rant of conservative talking points. So for better or worse, life has returned to normal.

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