05 November 2008

Penny-ante pundit

Watching John McCain's moving, heartfelt and eloquent concession speech got me thinking "where was THIS John McCain during the campaign?" I was impressed by his gracious acceptance of defeat and his sincere words of praise for his opponent. He showed great character, I thought, pledging to work with the President-elect, and reminding his supporters that he expected that of them as well. If the dignified, articulate and passionate patriot I saw last night had been visible all summer, it would have been a much closer race. Unfortunately for McCain, he never quite found his legs as a candidate. He never seemed comfortable as the "Republican nominee." That role did not play to his strengths as a maverick, and curtailed his appeal to a wider base. He may not have won even if he had been himself and carved out his own path, but he would have looked like the part suited him. He had a tough task. Barack Obama ran a near-perfect campaign. His organization was superbly coordinated. His fundraising was the stuff of legend. And the President-elect's other-wordly sangfroid was never challenged. I can't remember ever seeing a man spend so much time in the spotlight and not screw up! Obama found his stride early, sprinted past the favorite in the primary, and worked steadily all summer and into the fall to add voters to his fold. It was an operation of clinical precision that was fueled by a passion and youthful vigor rarely seen in the American political landscape. Obama's victory speech again showed off his spectacular oratorical skills--we've come to expect that of him each time he steps to the podium. I kept thinking he's got to keep something in the tank for later--the Inaugural, State(s) of the Union, etc.--then I remember he's younger than I am! Obama was born on August 4th, 1961, making him about 20 months my junior. The TV coverage last night showed crowds filled with young people in their 20s and 30s, and I think that was the crucial piece for Obama. He energized a disaffected bloc, and seems to have led a generational shift. Let's hope it translates into a new era of consensus politics, where coalition-building is more important than partisanship. After all, we got a heap o'problems in this country, and no one knows the solutions. We'll muddle along, like always, but maybe this time we can all muddle together.

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