Republicans are astonished and, in some cases, sickened by the ‘lurch to the left’ that America made by voting for Barack Obama. To them, I say: don’t be silly.
If anything, it is a correction, a very logical reaction to a process started in 2000, when a true ‘lurch to the right’ was rammed down the electorate’s throat. Obama’s election is a belated response to the election of Bush.
Each action begets a reaction. A positive action usually begets a positive response – and a negative action more often than not elicits a negative reaction.
On some network during election night, some analyst at some point voiced his astonishment about “how America seems to be abandoning its history of centrist politics”. I was appalled; here was a guy whose name I had never heard of, but who was a full-time paid analyst, and who somehow missed that in 2000, a man who said that he would unite the country, who promised that he was not a divider, started an ideological divide the likes of which no one had seen since the days of Barry Goldwater.
George W. Bush veered off wildly to the extreme right, on a quest to appease only the ultra-conservative, yes even extreme wing of the Republican religious wingnuts. In 2004, when so many people already had enough of that lurch that came to them like a thief in the night, many were swayed to vote for Bush again out of fear for terrorists. Bush was re-elected by the thinnest of margins.
That should have humbled him, but it didn’t.
Where was Fred Barnes of the Wall Street Journal back in those days, in 2000 and 2004, to accuse America of ‘lurching to the right‘? Robert Novak, on the day after the election of Barack Obama, wrote that Obama has “no mandate”. By the time of this writing, Obama has 349 votes in the electoral college.
What constitutes a “landslide” in Robert Novak’s dimension? Or even a mandate? Where was Novak in 2000 and 2004, to accuse Bush of not having a mandate, even though Bush had barely eeked out a win with 286 seats in 2004 – and even after having to resort to calling in the aid of the Supreme Court in 2000?
The answer is, of course, that Barnes and Novak felt pretty much at ease with whatever Bush was doing. But in 2008, a vast majority of the US electorate felt that they had to change course. The ship had veered off too much to starboard.
So the voters voted for a correction, and bringing the country back on course. If anything, the change Obama is seeking doesn’t seem too radical. Yes, universal health care is, in light of US history, a historical and possibly even ‘radical’ departure from the (supposedly) centrist course. But as for the rest of his platform, I’m convinced that not the slogan ‘change we can believe in’ but rather ‘a return to the way we were’ would have been more to the point.
What is so terrible about that? I wish Barnes and Novak would read this, and answer that question.
But they won’t. It’s probably a good thing that Obama’s quest for ‘new, uniting politics’ can do without the likes of Barnes and Novak. I wish them well while they lower themselves into the dustbin of history, where ‘old politics’ has been languishing for a good 24 hours already.