Are you over your hangover yet? The entire country seemed to be in the streets celebrating Obama’s historic victory. Somehow it didn’t hit suburban Oley and I got to bed around 1 am Wednesday morning after pouring over returns on the state and Congressional races. I noticed an interesting phenomena Tuesday and Wednesday which, I think, said a lot. Many drivers Tuesday seemed to be anxious and erratic. I even sat in traffic at a fatal accident while the coroner removed the body. It was as if the entire state was on pins and needles. Yesterday everywhere I went everyone I encountered was happy. I don’t recall encountering so many happy people in one day.
The real work now commences but it is also time to look back and examine what went right and what went wrong. The Obama campaign rewrote the book on running national campaigns. The amount of money they raised and their methods of doing so using the internet and technology enabled them to run a truly national campaign. Other presidential campaigns have wanted 80 field offices and 500 paid staffers in Pennsylvania and similar operations across the country but limits of financial resources always played against that reality. The Republicans simply could not match the resources and assets Obama had at his disposal.
My one criticism of the Obama campaign was their arrogance. When they did screw up no apologies were ever offered, no amends made. Theirs was an attitude of take no prisoners and I hope they abandon this arrogance now that they’ve won. Of course my distance from them and the fact I am no longer a Democrat enable me to hold them accountable and that I will do.
The John McCain campaign was an unmitigated disaster. I feel like I witnessed two fatal accidents Tuesday, the Republican Party’s disintegration the other. McCain did everything wrong. In a media age when every utterance was fact checked he insisted on repeating the same lies. Everyone knew they were lies.
His biggest problems were the timing of the economic meltdown and his choice for VP. The Wall Street collapse in mid September doomed any Republican’s chance of winning. He compounded that by choosing someone as a running mate who did become an albatross around his neck.
National elections are won by winning the middle, the large number of independent swing voters. Instead of choosing a moderate Vice Presidential candidate who would appeal to these voters McCain swung right and picked someone on the political fringe. With the GOP already being a far right wing party this decision doomed him.
The fact Sarah Palin was incompetent and only reminded voters of the detested George W. Bush compounded the damage. John McCain never rid himself of the connections to what may well be the worst administration in American history. His ties to Bush ran deep and Democrats reminded the voters of that constantly.
McCain really had no message. Messages win and lose campaigns. He was always on the attack and never gave voters reasons to vote FOR him. He began by attacking Obama’s experience. Choosing Palin meant he had to abandon that line. It also called into question his overall theme of Country First. No one with a brain believed he was putting Country First after the convention. At the end he even adopted John Kerry’s failed 2004 message of A Stronger America. That’s when I knew it was all over.
The constant negativity of the McCain effort strained patience. The stream of fears and smears that worked well for Republicans since World War II finally ran out of steam. Countered by a positive message of HOPE for a nation starved for hope showed one campaign which understood the mood of the country and another desperately out of touch.
The GOP has gradually marginalized itself by forcing their moderates out of the party. It is now nothing more than a fringe party of white supremacists, economic ideologues, religious nuts and the NRA. It will not win another national election in this form. There are now no Members of Congress in the GOP from New England. They have eaten their own and continue to do so in other regions of the country.
We saw this in Pennsylvania when they ran Pat Toomey against Arlen Specter. Until the Republican Party adapts they will keep shrinking. Young people today are intolerant of intolerance. The future will make the GOP a minor fringe Party incapable of fielding a competitive campaign in such an environment. We can all be thankful for that this Thanksgiving.