Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Final thoughts on Obama's win...

Here's the last of Dom's musings on the US election 2008. Of course, while he was glitzing with the likes of Obama and Brad Pitt in Chicago, I was struggling to convince Max that we were to watch CNN not his favourite DBD for this one night. Over to Dom....

Why did McCain lose? Even if he had run a flawless campaign and made no mistakes the odds were seriously stacked against him. When you are running for the incumbent party and your President has the lowest approval ratings of all time (23% and beating Nixon which is no mean achievement) and 90% of the population think the country is on the wrong track you are plainly at a massive disadvantage. He was also up against a democratic candidate who blew fund-raising records (US$605million), is, I believe, a once in a generation orator, made no mistakes and had all the luck. Luck meaning a real time financial crisis played out during electioneering which undoubtably benefited Obama (being the opposition candidate and not having a record to defend).
Looking back, I would pick two moments in the campaign which proved disastrous for McCain. One - suspending his campaign ahead of the 'Bailout' completely backfired, saying that his first debate should be postponed and "rushing back to broker a bailout deal in Washington". Firstly he didn't rush back, he chose to stay in NYC for another 24 hours, canceling all interviews and was seen leaving just about the most expensive restaurant in Manhatten that evening. Having then got to DC, he then said nothing (literally nothing by press reports) during the round table Bush organised to help break the deadlock. Thirdly no deal was struck. So not only did it make him look ineffectual and erratic - it looked like cheap political electioneering (borne out in the polls afterwards - 60% thought it was a political stunt) and finally it also looked like he didn't want to debate. Two - The Palin pick. McCain is I believe a smart guy but there is absolutely no way she was properly vetted and it really was a very stupid decision. By the time the election came around only 4 out of 10 people thought she was capable of being president (compared with Joe Biden where it was 8 out of 10). As people got to know her the less they liked her. She never really recovered from her interviews with CBS News and she became more partisan as time moved on (turning off independents/swing voters) revving up a pretty ugly side of the Republican base at campaign rallies.
I thought McCain's concession speech was superb, actually better than Obama's acceptance speech. I have lost count of the amount of people who said that if he had acted and spoken like that during the campaign who could have done alot better. Who knows.
One interesting point is how comedy played, I think, a significant part in McCain's downfall. All the big late night talk show hosts from David Letterman to Jay Leno firstly ripped McCain apart (repeatedly night after night) for his antics over suspending the campaign and then came the now legendary Saturday night live sketches of Sarah Palin's CBS interviews became a national laughing point.
Another interesting point is how the Republican party has turned on Palin. I read an article the other day about how the party was trying to trash her as much as possible over the next 2 weeks in the hopes of killing her career stone dead. The elders of the party see her as albatross around their neck because the base love her but independents (20% of electorate who decide elections) don't. They see a very real possibility that she will win the Republican nomination in 2 years time and doom them to another defeat. There are daily negative stories now from McCain aides on Palin. Fascinating to see if she can survive. My current favourite is how she thought Africa was a country not a continent.
I was at Grant Park in Chicago last Tuesday night and literally standing 20 feet from Obama when he made his acceptance speech. As someone who has always had an interest in politics but certainly never inspired by it (maybe until now) - it was amazing and eye opening. When CNN projected that Obama had won it, the reaction was the eqivalent of Rooney scoring the winning goal in a world cup final (we can all dream)..people went beserk. It was impossible not to be moved when Obama spoke - everywhere I looked people were crying. I knew i was witnessing a moment of huge historical significance especially in this country which has such a history of racial discontent. The fact that an African American who comes from a minority which make up 13% of this country had broken through and achieved the ultimate was frankly an amazing feeling. Will Obama be a good President? Who knows. But the way he ran his campaign gives me hope.

Until the next election cycle...

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