The Morning News

November 5, 2008, 12:53 P.M.


McCain could have won last night, but it would have required a very unlikely sequence of events—he needed to flip a coin seven times and have it come up seven heads. Actually it’s more like he had to roll the dice seven times and watch it come up seven sevens. No wait, it’s more like he had to flick the Twister spinner and have it land on “right hand red” seven times in a row.

I really do think the presence of Sarah Palin made it nearly impossible for him to be elected. For as many times as McCain tried to scare voters by quoting Biden’s “make no mistake, Obama will be tested…” line, any sober voter from either party had to, in a quiet moment, imagine the world on the day Sarah Palin was forced into service as president. What would it be like if Russia invaded its neighbors with Sarah Palin as president? How many points would the Dow Jones lose on the day Sarah Palin was being sworn in?

Someone like Mitt Romney, who is perceived as having economic experience based on the fact that he has accumulated a lot of money, probably would have helped McCain’s standing in the current crisis. Would it have been enough to win? I have no idea.

This election (and this economy) has opened up some pretty serious fissures in the Republican party. There are the intellectual elites, and the fiscal conservatives, the libertarians, and the neo-cons, the good old boys, and the Plumber Joes. For a variety of reasons, none of them could really get behind this ticket. I suspect now they are going to finger point and grumble and then pull out the Newt Gingrich playbook for inspiration.

Obama is going to have a honeymoon, of course. He’s lucky to have been elected this year, as the economy is scraping bottom, instead of last year when the Dow was just coming off its all-time high. I’ve said it before, the more people see of Obama, the more they like him. That’s going to feed his numbers for the next year or two, I suspect.

This is all to say that if your name is Nancy Pelosi and you are a congresswoman from California, dress for battle. Under siege, the rag-tag, fractured Republicans need a common enemy and Nancy Pelosi is looking like the most likely cylon. We are about to see an escalation of the culture wars and the Republican’s newest axis of evil is going to run from her office to Harry Reid’s.

Three states had initiatives on the ballot to ban gay marriage, and a fourth, Arkansas, had a remarkable (and I suspect ultimately unconstitutional) initiative barring gay couples from adopting children. Unless they find some uncounted votes in California, all four of those initiatives will pass, even in states where Obama won. Look for 20 states to have similar initiatives in 2010.

Interestingly, the three state initiatives seeking to limit or ban abortion all look like they will fail. I suspect abortion will actually take a back seat as an issue in the next couple years. Despite Kathryn Jean’s hysterics, Obama is hardly a radical. He’s a center-left pragmatist and that’s especially true on abortion. Catholics, who were a reliable Democratic voting bloc before Roe v. Wade, voted more than 53% for Obama. Part of it might have been this from Obama in the last debate:

There surely is some common ground when both those who believe in choice and those who are opposed to abortion can come together and say we should try to prevent unintended pregnancies by providing appropriate education to our youth, communicating that sexuality is sacred and that they should not be engaged in cavalier activity, and providing options for adoption, and helping single mothers if they want to choose to keep the baby.
Those are all things that we put in the Democratic platform for the first time this year, and I think that’s where we can find some common ground, because nobody’s pro-abortion. I think it’s always a tragic situation.

That’s where the country is on abortion—keep it legal, but keep it rare—and that’s where Obama is. He understands that abortions peaked during the Reagan and Bush administrations and decreased under Bill Clinton’s tenure, when social services were more widely available. Couple that with the fact that Obama will likely appoint at least two justices, making the battle at the high court moot, and I think the ranters like Kathryn Jean Lopez, who seem less interested in actually reducing the number of abortions than they are in getting a license to prosecute someone for “infanticide,” are going to be marginalized.

Obama understands the pathological dysfunction that can overcome those with unchecked power. Here in Illinois, Democrats control both houses of the legislature as well as the governor’s mansion and yet the state is mired in gridlock. The house speaker won’t even talk to the unpopular governor while he schemes to have his own daughter replace him in the next election. The next election isn’t soon enough for the lieutenant governor, who tried to organize a constitutional convention largely for the purpose of getting his own boss recalled.

Republicans are going to wait and hope for President Obama and giddy Democrats in Congress to overplay their hand. Clinton did it with health care and the Dems paid dearly in 1994. Obama set the tone well in his speech last night. If the Democrats can remain somber and gracious, Republicans might have to keep fighting themselves for awhile.

Nothing lasts forever, though. That’s the only thing I know for sure.


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