Barack Obama is our president-elect. He ran an efficient campaign, with incredible fundraising efforts, tight organization, and an astounding get-out-the-vote operation. It is impossible on this night to absorb or to even outline the historical significance of electing a black president. As others have pointed out, legal discrimination against blacks occurred within living memory for many people.
As much as we should credit Obama’s unique set of political talents, and a changing American electorate for this stunning result, there are others who had a hand in creating this year. President Bush, the Republicans in Congress, and the institutional conservative movement made this night possible. In fact, it’s hard to imagine what more they could have done for Obama and the Democrats. Their incompetence and corruption have moved moderate non-ideological voters over to the Democratic side, perhaps for a generation.
As much as the racial elements of this election will be examined, the most salient shift has been socio-economic. Professional whites are now almost entirely in the Democratic column. They abhor incompetence, fear anti-intellectualism, and no longer trust Republicans to be stewards of their economic success. This is why Obama won the white vote CORRECTION: increased the Democrat’s share of the white vote tonight.
Conservatives should welcome tomorrow. President Obama and the overwhelmingly Democratic Congress will give Republicans and conservatives a choice: reform, or be scattered to the winds. Our next president will have overwhelming power, but it will be handed to him in incredibly unfavorable circumstances. Two wars, a terrible international reputation, potential economic contraction, a lawless border. Events will force him to be disciplined, or he will quickly lose his working majority in Congress.
Notes: The Senate is overwhelmingly Democratic and will likely remain so for the next four years.
New England’s last Republican House member, Chris Shays, not only lost but was blown out by Goldman Sachs vet, Jim Himes. This race perfectly reflects the shift of professional whites into the Democratic party. Moderate Republicans have been punished for the mistakes of conservatives. In fact almost all moderates–office-holders and voters– are Democrats.
Lou Barletta, a promising champion of real immigration reform lost to 12-term incumbent Paul Kanjorski. He was the best chance Republicans had of picking up a seat from a veteran Democrat. We will likely discover in the next few days that McCain and Palin’s constant campaigning in his section of Pennsylvania cost him his unique brand.
Social conservatives had a mixed evening. Pro-life measures failed in South Dakota and Colorado. But anti-gay marriage ballot measures passed easily in Florida and Arizona. As of this writing, California seems to have passed Proposition 8 – overturning that state’s pro-gay marriage Supreme Court ruling. Connecticut failed to initiate a Constitutional Convention to overturn its Supreme Court’s pro-gay marriage ruling. Overall social conservatism had a better evening than Republicans, though much of the blame for Republican defeat will be, implausibly, laid at their feet.