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No Longer the Loyal Opposition

November 19th, 2008

Obama won… yay! But wait, wasn’t that like two weeks ago? Why am I just posting this now? Well, in part because I had wanted to wait until we had a solid electoral count against which I could compare my predictions, and silly Missouri is too close to call and the Obama campaign won’t just concede it, so folks who call things things are unwilling to put their ass on the line. Which is fine, except there are other things I want to write about, but not before my loyal opposition piece I’ve been writing in my head the past two weeks. So, here we are…

First, predictions. Let us first assume that Obama will not win Missouri, because the vote count is heading that way and it hasn’t changed since election night. Which gives McCain 173 electoral votes and Obama a whopping 365. I had predicted a 355/183 split, so I was only off by 10 votes… also known as Indiana. Silly Lake County broke more for Obama then I had expected. It was actually very surreal, after Ohio was called for Obama and the race was essentially over, that I started rooting for McCain in Indiana, because that was the one state that my prediction was heading the wrong direction. But, I suppose if I have to be wrong on a state, I prefer to be wrong in the way that gets more votes for my guy. Also, bonus points for having called the electoral vote coming out of Omaha, Nebraska for Obama.

Next, a little ethnographic film about that fateful moment when the polls on the west coast closed and the election was called.

Yes, that’s me in the white shirt and the American Flag tie. Exact same outfit as 2004. I think we have the start of a good little tradition.

And now, a special comment. I realized the day after the election that my relationship with my government had radically changed. Since my political inception, there has either been a Republican President or a Republican Congress… and for five years we had both! (And one crazy year we had a Republican President and a Republican House with a Democratic Senate.) This is the first time when my party is truly, and unapologetically in power.

That really changes how you relate to what’s going on in Washington. Until now, if something bad happened it was all too easy to say, yup, that’s bad… silly Republicans. It also meant that ideals I supported were generally in opposition to the majority ideals. In such instances you take up the mantle of the loyal opposition. You may object to the outcome, but as a loyal American you recognize the political process for what it is. Obama’s election and growth of Democratic majorities in the House and Senate change everything.

Now it’s not enough to just say, “silly Republicans”, because they aren’t the ones doing the bad things. It’s going to be us. And don’t give me the line about the Senate filibuster… by the time Alaska and Minnesota are resolved, I fully expect a 59 vote majority in the Senate. Even if we fail to pickup the runoff in GA, as I expect will be the case, it should be trivial to pick up a single republican vote on all manner of issues, assuming we have unity among the caucus.

And that’s the whole issue. Now that the Democrats are in charge, will be have unity? I’m not talking about the sort of unity where we all go jump off a bridge together, but the kind of unity where members vote as a governing coalition for the betterment of America, not just their own personal political prospects. What of us rank and file Democrats? Are we going to become the ditto heads of the Democratic party, walking around as if our newly elected leaders can do no wrong? Maybe we’ll swing the other way, and demonstrate that liberals really are never satisfied.

I honestly don’t know what happens next. I’m excited for change and I’m excited to have a voice that matters. But there’s a lot of scary stuff out there, and it will take more than just a really smart president (though that’s certainly a prerequisite). I don’t doubt Obama will rise to the task… but will we?

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