Election Day, and a presidential election at that. Let the cynics whine: This is one of the most exciting times for an American, of any age. And this year, that excitement grew to unequalled levels. Americans of all ages, from all places, of all political persuasions, were energized — some beyond the bounds of reason.
We knew this presidential election would be historic, regardless of the decision made by the voters. One victor would be the first African-American to hold the office. If the opponent won, we would have the first-ever female vice-president.
The election was fought hard, to the wire. By two very compelling candidates. No matter what their choice, the honest voter will admit the opponent was challenging, possessed of many admirable characteristics and accomplishments.
The issues, like the candidates, were dramatic: war, education, health care, taxes, debt. And, finally, like Yeats’ beast, an economic failure of nearly unprecedented proportions slouched onto the stage, not just here, but worldwide.
By Wednesday we had our history lesson, and the first African-American elected president of the United States.
What a fascinating experience this has been. Now, we can turn our attention to other, graver matters.
First, will we simply go back to politics as usual once the inauguration takes place? All the talk about change during both campaigns was stirring to many, but to others it rang somewhat hollow. The proof will be in the pudding.
What could change first, perhaps easiest?
Start with the campaign process itself. Exciting though it was, this campaign went on for nearly two years. That is entirely too long. What is wrong with a month and a half, two months, six at the most? It works elsewhere, and it can work here. While we are at it, can we cut down on the number of primaries? There must be a way to combine primary elections, hold fewer of them, on a greater than statewide basis.
Next, consider how much money was raised during this campaign, through primary and general election phases. It is astounding, in particular, to consider the amount of money raised by the Obama campaign. The question: Who provided the big donations, how much were those donations, how were they made? And most important: What is expected in return? Politics as usual? We need to make real progress on campaign finance reform.
Other problems facing a new president might not admit of easy or quick solutions. Anyone who thinks the current financial dilemma will go away soon is dreaming. With the threat of deflation looming, with the effect of bailouts uncertain, with faulty regulatory policies, who would be willing to guess what will happen? The problems of entitlements, a generation nearing retirement, burgeoning government spending, an entrenched federal government bureaucracy seemingly immune to political change — none seem susceptible to rapid solution. Neither will it be easy to deal with health care, with infrastructure needs, with growing national debt, unemployment and two wars that seem to drag on and on.
What we do have, for sure, is one of the most graceful moments in our nation’s history — something to build on, a moment of inspiration as we wait for elected leaders to make their moves, whatever those moves might be. It is obvious the American voter can change, and ask his and her country to alter its course. Attitude counts, for a lot. Our newly-elected leaders should be buoyed by that attitude. Now that the sniping and smearing and backbiting and the honest, hard-fought political brawling is over, we need to marvel at history being made, and give our new leaders a reasonable time to prove themselves, one way or another, as they deal with extraordinarily difficult circumstances.