Blogospheric Reactions

Jeff Alworth

While we wait impatiently for results on the Senate race, here's a sampling of some of the deeper thoughts about what Obama's win means.

Paul Krugman
A magnificent victory for Barack Obama. And bear in mind that the campaign, in its final stages, was really about different philosophies of governing. This wasn’t like the 2004 campaign, which was essentially fought over fake issues — Bush running on national security and social issues, then claiming that he had a mandate to privatize Social Security. In this election, Obama proudly stood up for progressive values and the superiority of progressive policies; John McCain, in return, denounced him as a socialist, a redistributor. And the American people rendered their verdict.

Kevin Drum
Tonight has been both a great triumph for common sense and a final, emphatic rejection of the Texification of the Republican Party. Barack Obama's victory has been huge, and his coattails have proven to be everything Democrats could have hoped for, with pickups of at least five Senate seats and more than a dozen House seats. Conservatives will do their best to spin things otherwise, but there's little question that the country moved decisively from center right to center left tonight.

Noam Scheiber
Which is to say, the big divide last night wasn’t between working-class whites (i.e., whites without college degrees) and educated whites. It was between working-class whites who are relatively well off, and working-class whites who aren’t. The aforementioned numbers imply that Obama struggled hugely among working-class whites making more than $50,000 per year, but did well among those making less than that. The upshot was that, despite losing the white working-class by wide margins nationally, Obama came reasonably close in the economically depressed states of the industrial Midwest (down only 8 in Ohio and Indiana, actually up 6 in Michigan). Hence the electoral college landslide.

Matt Yglesias
Mostly I think it’s a reminder that events matter. By 2006, the consequences of conservative governance were clear to a majority of the public, who registered their displeasure at the polls. But the lame-duck conservative president and a filibuster-happy conservative minority in the Senate blocked efforts to take the country in a substantially new direction. Two years later, the consequences of conservative governance and of conservative obstruction were even worse. So the public has once again expressed its displeasure at the polls. The vehicle — an unlikely candidate with an uncanny talent for political oratory and organizing who didn’t fundamentally rethink the nature of the progressive agenda but did help sharpen public demand for change into an effective political movement for change.

Harold Meyerson
My [94-year-old] mother grew up in Tennessee -- born in Memphis, raised in Nashville. The first election she can remember, in 1928, pitted Herbert Hoover against Al Smith, and when she called last night, she recalled how Smith’s Catholicism alarmed many of her neighbors: “What’s going to happen if we elect a Roman Catholic?” she remembered one neighbor worrying. The thought of an African-American president, of course, simply hadn’t occurred to anyone.

Mark Schmitt
Last night I was at the BBC for a long while, for a short radio interview, and I saw John Bolton, who was on for a long TV segment in which he puffed about the coming backlash against Obama's socialist economics, the pointlessness of diplomacy, and voter fraud; and Mark Penn, who talked about the need for Obama to govern like the later Clinton, from the center-right. Each man is sort of despicable (although in very different ways and it's not fair to compare evil with shmuckiness) -- and once upon a time we all expended a lot of ink and energy on their failings. (Well, on Penn, I did!) And now, each is a relic, a figure from another era in American politics: the era of vicious conservatism and those who tried to tiptoe around it. We're done with that, and with them.

Steve Benen
Are you sure it's a good idea to hold a rally in Germany? Are you sure you want to campaign in non-traditional states, instead of investing everything in the major battleground states? Are you sure it's wise to avoid the kind of sleazy attacks the Republicans are using? Are you sure you want to forgo the convention center and deliver an acceptance speech outside, before 75,000 at a football stadium? Are you sure you can afford to take a week-long vacation in the middle of the campaign? Are you sure it's won't look funny to broadcast a half-hour ad in prime time on practically every network?

As the developments of the last 12 hours sink in, it's probably worth taking a moment to note that Obama and his team were sure. Every time the campaign implicitly said, "Trust us; we know what we're doing," it turns out, they really did.

And finally, from inside the echo chamber at the Corner, Kathryn Jean Lopez:
What freaks me out about this election is how oblivious to facts people have been. Everything about Obama's judgment and radicalism — whether Sean Hannity or Stanley Kurtz or Andy McCarthy etc. is telling you about it — was essentially deemed irrelevant (including largely by the McCain campaign, save for Palin eventually talking about Ayers). Abortion? Near no one outside a handful of conservatives were talking about his record on infanticide — beyond abortion. People are in for a rude awakening.

  • huey (unverified)

    As it sinks in, I have mixed feelings. First, the historic impact is undeniable; but race was secondary the entire campaign. Making it a primary issue now insults our democracy. I do NOT like the fact that so many people (african americans) voted for Obama because of his race. Not saying I blame them, but still...

    Second, as a moderate voter and someone who is more socially liberal and economically conservative, I see some evidence we're headed down the wrong path. Anti-gay measures won in 3 states, 2 of which were carried by Obama. Are we becoming more populist? Voters are saying we can't keep our money nor can we live the way we choose. This confuses me.

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    starting with you, K-lo!

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    Huey, I wouldn't agree with this:

    I do NOT like the fact that so many people (african americans) voted for Obama because of his race.

    Black voters supported Kerry by an 89-10 margin. They supported Gore 90-9. Obama increased the margin slightly to 95-4. Given that all non-white minorities greatly increased their vote for Obama, this appears correlated with anti-Republican, not pro-black, sentiment. So we can infer that black voters would have supported Hillary or any other Dem by a similarly overwhelming majority.

    Don't confuse blacks' (and a great many whites', including me) joy over having a black president with that being the cause of their vote. It just doesn't stand up.

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    Sorry, I'm really tired and my syntax is fractured.

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    I like Oliver Burkeman's comments from his LiveBlog of the election for the Guardian:

    1.45am UPDATE: Back from the White House. It's always difficult to convey joy in words -- negative emotions are much easier to write about, for some reason -- and harder still when it's joy as intense as on the streets of Washington DC tonight, but I'll try. It's wild: several thousand people jammed into the narrow roadway between the front gates of the White House and Lafayette Park, climbing on each others' shoulders, delivering spontaneous hugs and high-fives, handing out plastic cups of champagne to people they've never met. (The surrounding streets are noisy with cars honking the three-honk rhythm, "Yes We Can".) Pretty hard to talk to people, because they just scream jubilantly in your face and then throw their arms around you -- but I did get a few words with Toby Jurovics, a curator at the Smithsonian Museum who was watching it all with quiet amusement. "This changes everything," he said. "The last eight years have been not just an embarrassment but a reversal of everything that made us great. It's been hard to be an American. I honestly thought if McCain was elected we'd be finished as a world leader. I'd given up hope. It's such a relief to see someone get elected who's thoughtful. Someone who doesn't just care about making his friends rich. He's not a black president -- he's an American president. It's a rejection of the last eight years. We're back."

    "He's a healer," DC resident Michael Dutton told me, "and that's what we need, because you know, we need healing. And we're going to be doing much more listening, as a country. Obama's no cowboy. It's not going to be 'my way or the highway.'" I asked him what he thought the election of a black president would mean for the country. "It means we've come a long way, baby.. I'm fifth generation American, and on my way here tonight, I thought about my ancestors -- three generations of them were slaves. And now I'm a father for the first time, my son is five months old, and..." He trailed off, and shook his head.

    "It's just a lot to think about," he said.

    For the whole thing:

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    Black people voted for John Kerry at 90% or more levels. The idea that they voted for Obama only because of his race is simply wrong.

    Before the caucuses and primaries started, Hillary Clinton was beating Obama by considerable margins among African-Americans in states like North and South Carolina (i.e. states with proportionally very high black populations who provide the core of DP support in those states). When asked, those who did so put it explicitly in terms of who they thought would be electable to put Democratic policies into effect. It was only after black people began to have enough confidence that enough whites would vote for Obama based on ideas and not race that they began to shift over to supporting Obama, in a sense saying, other things being equal, we'd prefer to elect a strong black candidate.

    And frankly I also think that people who have been excluded have a legitimate interest in casting votes that will tend to break down such exclusion -- whether that was Irish vs. WASPs in early 20th century Boston, or Italians vs. Irish Tammany machines in New York, or Catholics disproportionately supporting John F. Kennedy. If you've been on the wrong end of discrimination, there is a legitimate self-interest in voting in a way that goes against it or its legacy.

    I am not sure why your self-interest about "your" money (which may in part be yours because of past redistributionist policies like home mortgage deductions, though I can't know, obviously, or for more indirect reasons about how society is structured to benefit the better off) is any more legitimate a form of self-interest than that of someone from a group historically discriminated against and oppressed taking that into account.

  • huey (unverified)

    No doubt black people are reliable Democrats who would have voted for any Democrat. But all the celebrating and crying in the street bothers me. I can understand the feelings of older people who lived through the Civil Rights movement and segregation, but not necessarily the under 30 crowd who grew up in modern America. The big problem for me is that this entire election was (mostly) about issues; why make it about race now? It cheapens the process. I had the same feeling when the Bears and Colts made the Super Bowl and the headlines were suddenly about two black coaches, when it should have primarily been football.

    <h2>As for "my" money, my feeling is this: I'm 29 years old and fall into the category of what Obama calls "rich." I grew up in Corvallis, went to the same schools as my friends, went to OSU and came from the same kind of background. I believe I worked harder and took more risks than my peers who are not as financially stable as me. This money is mine and I earned it. The government didn't "redistribute" this money to me. It's mine and I'd like to keep more of it. I don't mind paying taxes if it goes to pay down debt, but I really don't want to fund more wars or welfare programs, whether it be for individuals or corporations.</h2>

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