The election of Barack Obama on Tuesday marked a significant shift in American politics and a devastating blow to the Republican Party.
From the perspective of a Conservative, it was an affirmation that the Conservative Movement that largely defined American politics for nearly half a century has ended. Eight years of policies by the Bush Administration that gave deference to social Conservative values while utterly ignoring the more fundamental Conservative tenets of limited governance and libertarian ideals of expansive individual liberty have led Americans to be disillusioned with the Republican Party. As someone who more completely philosophically identifies as a libertarian, I find myself just as upset as many liberals at the failed policies of the Administration that led to the fiscal nightmare that we are currently in, for the inflation of government has been coupled with a paradoxical tax policy that has made our financial situation untenable.
Having said this, I was throughout the election a John McCain supporter. I believe in free trade and I believe in limited government. The policies espoused by Senator McCain were more in line with those beliefs – yet I had more reason to be optimistic about him being a Republican President because he is fundamentally a moderate. Anyone who has seen his Senate record clearly sees that John McCain differs from George Bush in a significant way – whereas George Bush is ideologically rigid, John McCain is more compromising. I was hopeful that if elected president he would work for change.
Yet I was conflicted in that I found something intriguing about Senator Obama. His image and his story is unique, and electing him is a positive step that symbolizes how far America has come from its recently racist past. Furthermore, his social liberalism is attractive to libertarians who are weary of socially Conservative policies. His rhetoric has been lofty, but it has espoused a desire to work with both parties – something I think is very important given the obstinacy of the Bush Administration over the past 8 years.
So I say that “O” is for Optimism because although the candidate with my policy preferences lost, but the candidate that could do the most to restore faith in American government has won. I feel that Americans were very fortunate this year in that during hard times they were offered two excellent candidates from different parties. Both seem to be reformers, and change is clearly what we need.
Here in Chapel Hill the emotion was palpable when Obama won. Franklin St. was rushed and people on campus were screaming for days, sometimes completely randomly. Getting caught up in the emotion of that moment was overwhelming; maybe once in a lifetime will I feel the elation of the victor after my candidate lost. I could not help but think that this could be the best moment for the problems of America to be tackled and solved.
The expectations are indeed high. The economy is bad. A war has tarnished America’s image and worked to worsen an already horrific fiscal nightmare. Obama’s task is weighty indeed – but it feels like now is the best time for us to do something to save America’s future. The overwhelming elation in America and the world right now begs the question: “If we can’t solve America’s problems now, when will we?”
We have arrived at a pivotal moment in our history. I hope the reform and change that comes will be beneficial and bipartisan. I hope that our leaders will use our institutions to achieve what they were designed to achieve – consensus and compromise. And thus I am optimistic about the coming Obama Presidency, even in the face of defeat of the candidate I chose to support. To say that I will agree with his policies now is going too far, but I am hopeful that Obama will provide the leadership to make Washington a place where solutions are arrived at and all voices heard. In all of this there is one important tenet to remember: partisanship is not an end in itself, it is a means to a more noble end. That end is change; that end is progress. I am ready to give our new President the chance to deliver, and you should be too.