The election of Barack Obama to the Presidency brings a temporary sight of relief:
- A McCain victory would have drawn suspicions of fraud, provoking civil unrest.
- A McCain-Palin victory would have prolonged the Bush "Era of Bad Feeling."
- McCain lacked the temperament and intellect to be a competent President, and Sarah Palin is, at this point, not well-informed enough to be President.
- It is good to see a black man win the Presidency with a clear majority of the vote. This, by itself, will improve America's standing in the world. A McCain victory would have prompted dread among our allies and caused our enemies to rejoice.
- It is good to see Democrats actually nominate a candidate who opposed the War in Iraq from the beginning, and see this candidate succeed. That Obama carried the day gives him a mandate to withdraw from the quagmire.
And Obama did run an efficient, classy campaign. If he could avoid mis-steps as President they way he did while campaigning, we should be fine.
That said, Obama does raise concerns. Based on his history and record, we do not know what's really up his sleeve:
- Did he associate with left-radicals and black racialists in Chicago just to further his career, or because he agreed with them?
- Did he vote, in 2006, to criminalize flag "desecration" out of personal beliefs and legal convictions, or to cynically advance his own career?
- Did he vote for warrantless spying on American citizens to avoid a "soft on terror" smear, or because he wants to use and abuse this power as President?
- Did he kow-tow to the Israel lobby and threaten Iran to make himself look "tough" for election purposes, or because he really wants to continue needless American intervention in the region?
- Did he support the Bailout of Wall Street because he's clueless and un-interested in economic issues, or because he really is in the pocket of the bankers?
Many people who voted for Obama may make excuses for some or all of these things, and suggest that Obama sometimes had to be pragmatic to get where he is. That may well be true. Then, the question becomes ...
Will Obama govern like a pragmatist or an ideologue?
- Will he focus on punishing "greed," or will he work on ways to encourage enterprise and create jobs?
- Will he insist on greater federal control over health care, or work on ways to actually make health care less expensive and more accessible?
- Will he adopt a realist foreign policy, repairing damaged relations and avoiding war whenever possible, or will he replace neo-conservatism with a "liberal internationalism" that would draft our sons and daughter to die "saving" Darfur or "liberating" Zimbabwe?
- Will he combat budget deficits or insist on new spending regardless of the consequences?
- Will his "cure" for racial injustice be in the way of more affirmative action and hate crimes laws, or greater efforts to reduce prison populations and unemployment?
- Will he maintain the status quo on abortion, or promote and sign the Freedom of Choice Act?
- Does he embrace the heavy-handed Justice Department tactics of Janet Reno and the Bush Attorneys General, or will he restore privacy protections and not interfere with state laws regarding marijuana and assisted suicide?
Judging by the way he ran his campaign, Obama seems to have the potential to be a competent President. If he displays genuine intellectual curiosity on economic and fiscal issues, brings an end to the wars, and refrains from alienating social conservatives very often, he would be on the right track.
But if he starts to believe all the positive press he's getting and develops a Messiah complex to "save" the country through bigger, more intrusive government, look out!