Thank You

As I bask in the sweet feelings of victory following the election on Tuesday, I must pause to thank those I think most responsible for Obama’s election (in no particular order):

  • David Axelrod: Unless you watch the political shows you probably don’t know who this guy is. He was the director for Obama’s campaign. From the tremendous “ground game” that the campaign developed to smart decisions like traveling to Europe and the Middle East following the primaries or emphasizing the caucuses when the Clinton camp ignored them, Axelrod engineered one of the best campaigns in history.
  • Hillary Clinton: Although I was critical of her during the primaries (see here, here and here), I have grown to admire her dedication to the party. Her speech at the Democratic Convention in which she asked her supporters, “Were you in this campaign just for me?”, was just what was needed. From what I understand, she campaigned heavily for Obama following the convention, but neither of those things was her biggest contribution. With the benefit of hindsight, it’s obvious to me now that holding all of the Democratic primaries was tremendously advantageous to Obama. And not because she “made him a better candidate” as so many pundits are saying now, but because of the sheer amount of exposure that the primary campaign received. How much did we hear about John McCain after Mitt Romney conceded? It also stands to reason that Democrats likely increased voter registration as a result of having to campaign in every single state during the primaries.
  • Iowa: My humble home state is often the target of derision or contempt by many in our nation. In a state where over 95% of the population is white, it would be easy to fall into the trap of bigotry and prejudice. Thus, I was so proud of Iowa when they chose Barack Obama in the season’s first caucus. It showed that white America was ready to elect an African American to President and I knew at that moment that we had entered a new era in our history.
  • Howard Dean: Most people only know Dean from his infamous speech rallying his troops after a defeat in the Iowa caucuses in 2004. Dean eventually bowed out of that race but went on to become the chairman of the Democratic National Committee. While there, he developed the “50 state strategy” which explicitly rejected the idea of America divided into “red states” and “blue states.” His strategy called for campaigning in all the states and rebuilding the party in supposed “red states” with young candidates at the local level. The strategy blended perfectly with Obama’s stated philosophy of a united America and was a major factor in the win.
  • Barack Obama: Although I preferred that he not go negative, when he did, it was in a respectful way that focused on the issues and not on distractions and name-calling. His poise and natural calm during the debates put him head-and-shoulders above McCain. Somehow he was able to overcome the sound bite political culture that simplifies issues to the point of absurdity. His ability to explain his positions and convince people was important for the campaign and will continue to be important when it comes time to “sell” his ideas to the American people. I know that I’ve “drunk the Kool-aid” to some degree with Obama, but it’s never been easier and it’s never tasted so sweet. He has such great potential and my feeling is that he can be one of the greatest presidents we’ve had. I don’t know if he’ll live up to that potential but I’m glad that he’ll have the chance to try.
  • Sarah Palin: I can’t imagine a less competent person to lead our country. Even Dan Quayle was more qualified than Governor Palin. During the few interviews she held, it was obvious that she was not good enough to be President (which should be the qualification for the Vice President). One particular riff during the Couric interview was so clueless that SNL used it verbatim in their sendup of the interview a few days later. Although many pundits are now blaming the economy for John McCain’s sink in the polls over the last 6 weeks, I credit the American people. During that time we realized what this woman is all about and that she was simply not fit for such an important office.
  • John McCain: After he picked Palin to be his VP, I said to a friend, “It almost seems like he’s trying to lose.” He had so many missteps throughout the campaign (“the fundamentals of the economy are strong”) and seemed so indecisive and erratic that only the most hardcore Republicans could vote for him. I suppose that he worried most about losing that base but I think he would have been better served to completely embrace his old persona of a “maverick” and buck his party when it counted most. If he had picked Democratic traitor Joe Lieberman as his VP, I believe there would have been no stopping his candidacy. That would have put him squarely in the middle, right where America is. At a time when almost the entire country has become disillusioned with the far right, no-holds-barred politics of George W. Bush, McCain embraced those ideals.
  • George W. Bush: Although equating McCain with Bush was somewhat unfair, it’s hard to argue that you are different when your voting record says otherwise – especially on key issues like Iraq. That McCain never asked Bush to campaign for him says everything you need to know about the negative effect that Bush had on the election. Eight years of incompetence coupled with hubris is just too much to overcome when you are of the same political persuasion. 
  • The American People: If nothing else, this election renewed my faith in the American people. Even though all the polls said Obama would win, I still dreaded Tuesday night. After Kerry lost in 2004 when it seemed so obvious to me just how bad Bush was, I really doubted our nation’s ability to make the right decision for itself. I was wrong. And I was wrong in spades. Not only did we elect the best man for the job but the enthusiasm for this man is unprecedented in my lifetime. I hope the enthusiasm and support continues and the people don’t become distracted again by the politics of destruction we’ve seen so often in the last 8 years.
  • The Economy: Republican pundits are quick to point to this as the main, if not sole, for the McCain campaign’s downfall. I couldn’t disagree more. The McCain camp seemed to think they could win by keeping the focus on Iraq and foreign policy, but McCain’s decisions in that area are just as suspect. Let’s not forget that in 2006 the people essentially threw out the Republican majority in Congress because of the war. McCain was fond of touting the correctness of his decision about The Surge, but it doesn’t take a genius to realize that the Surge wouldn’t have been necessary if we hadn’t invaded Iraq in the first place. The economy was certainly a factor in the election but it was only a minor factor. Perhaps the straw that broke the camel’s back.