The stereotypical images of the two major parties suggest the causes of small government and individual liberty were dealt a crushing blow last night. But this election year has been anything but typical, and we can expect some bright spots from an Obama presidency. A conclusion to the war in Iraq is likely within the next year to eighteen months. That not only frees up resources for employment elsewhere in the war on terror, it comports with the wishes of the Iraqi people and signals that we don't intend a perpetual occupation. I expect there to be a concurrent buildup in Afghanistan, and hope for the capture of Osama bin Laden. On the whole, there'll be a shift in the general tenor of our foreign relations, toward a spirit of cooperation and away from dictation to other nations. This is something that will benefit not only America, but the entire globe.
On the domestic front, I've repeatedly deplored the fact that neither major ticket was good for the country. A return to a smaller Federal government is not only the right course for the country, it's what the people truly want. Numerous polls bear this out. This wasn't a vote for a return to the tax-and-spend liberalism of the past; it was a vote against the spend-and-control "compassionate conservatism" that has failed so disastrously over the past eight years. There are so many people is this country - and I'm one of them - who favor economic conservatism and social liberalism. Anyone who can tap into that energy could stand to do very well in the near future.
What's the future of the Republican Party? That depends on the tack that both parties adopt from this point forward. It won't help the GOP that the new administration does not seem to be poised to make the same mistakes the Democrats did sixteen years ago. Obama has never pushed for the kind of across-the-board tax hikes Bill Clinton did, and Hillary-style universal coverage seems to be off the table. The "elephant meat" won't have quite the things to rally against that Newt Gingrich and company did in 1994. Regardless of what the Democrats do, the GOP has to return to their first principles if they want to make any headway. They should be willing to work with the Democrats when it benefits them, but they also have to stand in strong opposition to any significant expansion of Washington - and that includes using the filibuster, presuming they have enough votes in the Senate to do that. If Republicans find the spirit of Reagan, and discard Bush's "when somebody hurts, government has got to move" philosophy and his pandering to the far right, they can recover from this fate. After all, the Democrats reversed the Republican Revolution; it's not insane to think it can't happen again.
It was telling to note the President-elect's demeanor as he gave the victory speech Tuesday night. It reflected not only his own even keel, but a knowledge that the nation needs a lot of work to reverse the spiral of the previous two terms. He's inheriting one of the most perilous situations as any President ever, and he appears to be ready to get to work. His ability to reach out to young people and get them involved in the process bodes well, from a procedural standpoint, for the future of our Republic. All in all, we could have done a lot worse than Barack Obama. Let's recall the closing words of Senator McCain's concession speech:
I wish Godspeed to the man who was my former opponent and will be my president. And I call on all Americans, as I have often in this campaign, to not despair of our present difficulties, but to believe, always, in the promise and greatness of America, because nothing is inevitable here.It's a call I will answer; not only now, but after my direct service to the President concludes.