It’s been clear for weeks which way the election was trending, but I don’t trust near-sure things.  But the results make me very happy.  Obama fought a very smart and tough campaign, taking on— and winning— red states that McCain couldn’t afford to lose.  In a sense all he had to do besides that was to stay cool and let McCain shoot himself in the foot, and McCain obliged.

Years ago Richard Nixon observed that the way to become a Republican president was to move as far right as possible in the spring, and as far back as possible in the fall.  For a time Karl Rove revised this by eliminating the leftward half of the trek: the Republicans would become a permanent majority by going all hard right all the time. Sadly, McCain followed this nasty and divisive method, and I hope his loss drives an iron spike through its heart.  

A better candidate, or the old McCain, might have done better, but I think the election was in large part an overdue reprimand to George Bush’s incompetence— and the important point is, Bush was not mere bad luck.  He was the clear choice of the GOP, “Our Leader”, and the conservative movement closed ranks till very recently, throwing out even their own when they dared to dissent.  None of Bush’s mistakes were an accident.  The disasters of Katrina and the financial industry are a direct result of anti-government ideology: if you put people in charge who pooh-pooh the very idea of government, you’ll get bad government just when you need it.  The disaster of Iraq (and increasingly Afghanistan) was a direct consequence of Republican xenophobia: if you put people in charge who hate half their country and the whole of the rest of the world, you’ll be hated by the world.  And the disasters of bill signing statements, government torture chambers, and other assaults on constitutionality come from putting authoritarians in charge.

I have sympathy for actual conservatives— at least, those who recognize that the Republicans have nearly destroyed real conservativism.  Conservativism isn’t supposed to be about increasing government spending, lies and bullshit, an imperial presidency, and endless war.  The younger generation of conservatives realizes that their own movement needs to be reformed.

The election was also what Obama insisted it was: a vote for change and hope.  He never overplayed his blackness, and the whole point is that we needn’t either.  The thing to celebrate is that we can now elect the best person for the job, white or black.  (And, male or female.  Despite bruised feelings, it’s obvious that both parties are now ready to seriously consider a female president.)  But everything that Obama is sends a strong and overdue message to the world— that the better elements of the American dream are back on top, opportunity and inclusiveness rather than fear and disdain.

My condolences to gays and lesbians for their losses in California and elsewhere.  The consolation, though, is that victory is so close we can taste it.  It won’t take another generation; it’ll be five or ten years.  Look at the margin in California: 48-52.  Or Arkansas of all places: 43-57.  The right will count these as tactical victories, but they’ve lost the war.  To be a cultural value, something (say, homophobia) has to be accepted by ultra-majorities— 80% or more.  When it’s in the 50s, it’s just politics, and given current trends it will change very soon.