Being Right – Change We’ll Need

This has not been a good week to be a Republican. Here on the fairly liberal Colgate campus, people are celebrating. I’ve even seen people greet each other by shouting out “Obama.” Republicans find this eerily reminiscent to communism, but for many, the past few days have been cause for jubilation and a renewal of faith in the democratic system. 2008 was a rough year for Republicans, but we always would be. The strength of the Democratic Party, or rather, the weakness of the Republican Party, was the main reason the Democratic primaries dragged on forever. America knew she wanted a Democrat, it just wasn’t sure which one. President Bush, whether fairly or not, has been torn apart by the court of public opinion. The Republican brand has been battered. The Democrats almost blew their softball election by nominating Barack Obama, a politically risky candidate, but the cards were so stacked in their favor that nothing could derail them. This is a Democratic year. Given the political climate, Senator John McCain did remarkably well. Tuesday did not produce quite the landslide victory many were predicting. McCain was able to hold onto between 46 and 47 percent of the popular vote. The Electoral College map looks disturbingly blue, but even though Obama won every swing state, he only held on to them by a few percentage points. The Democrats did well; they will have control of the White House and Congress, but hope is not lost for the Republicans.

Americans barred Harry Reid’s wish for a 60-seat, filibuster-proof Senate. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell held on to his seat. He is the most powerful Republican left standing on Capitol Hill. Comedian Al Franken, who, if elected to the Senate, would be a true disgrace to America, appears to have been brought down by some 477 residents of Minnesota. Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, who has the distinction of having what is probably the coolest name on Capitol Hill, also appears to have barely held on to his Senate seat. The Democrats have a decided majority in the Senate, but when you take into account the two independents and the many moderate Democrats, the liberal mandate just isn’t there.

Obama is right when he says “this is our time.” The Americans have decided, and they cast their votes less in support of the Democratic liberal agenda and more in an act of defiance towards the reigning party. This election was an election of emotion. Americans reacted strongly against the perceived failures of the Bush administration. The Democrats were the beneficiaries of Bush’s mistakes not because they did anything worthy of praise, but because they were the alternative. This is their moment. The ball is completely in their court. Now, as they face America’s great challenges, the buck will have to stop with them. They will control the House, the Senate, the White House, and probably soon, the Supreme Court. Any problem, whether it’s a deeper recession, an escalation of international tensions, or a full-out crisis like Joe Biden predicted, will be the responsibility of the Democrats. When they fail to fix the economy, and fail to win the war on terror, Americans will blame the Democrats. They will have to. There is no longer anyone else to blame.

Pundits are saying the Republicans need to rebrand, to restructure, to change their party dramatically. They are citing the election of Barack Obama, the most liberal member of the Senate, as proof that America has shifted from a center-right country to a center-left country. But the only thing that has shifted in America is the emotions of her people. America is still a center-right country, as proven by the conservative measure to ban same-sex marriage which passed in Arizona, Florida and even California, a decidedly blue state. Americans have not rejected conservatism. They have rejected President Bush. They have rejected the last eight years. This is Obama’s time. This is the Democrats’ time. America has made, in this election, a dramatic shift, and has given the reins to the liberals. It remains to be seen what the Democrats will do with their moment.

Pundits say Obama will have to govern as a moderate, and act pragmatically, like Bill Clinton did. This is all speculation. Obama has no record. We can only guess what he truly means by “change.” Americans like change, and if they find, in two or four years, that they don’t like Obama’s liberal version of change, they will seek another change. The Republicans will be waiting for that moment. Sometimes, it takes a liberal digression to bring about a great conservative revival. President Carter, who until Obama was the last Democrat to win over 50 percent of the popular vote, only had one term in office, but he managed to sink the country in terms of both foreign and domestic security. We are still dealing with the failures of the Carter administration, in Iraq and Iran, and at home with the mortgage crisis. But after Carter came Reagan. Maybe Obama really will bring about the change we need. After his liberal reign in Washington, Americans, who are still center-right, will be ready for change. And that change could come in the form of a new Ronald Reagan. And that is truly something to hope for.