Barack Obama, my president too

Published 2:32 am Monday, November 10, 2008

By By Tray Smith
Tuesday night’s drastic but unsurprising repudiation of the Republican Party was as disappointing as it was inevitable. Members of the GOP, however, should not succumb to despair: after eight years controlling the White House, twelve years controlling Congress, and six years controlling the White House and Congress, the party’s two recent electoral drubbings afford Republicans an opportunity to conduct valuable soul searching exercises and correct the excesses of their recent past. Hopefully, this process will enable the party to reestablish itself as an effective alternative to the Democrats by renewing its commitment to conservative traditions while retooling its agenda for modern challenges.
In order to constructively complete this renewal, Republicans must recognize their defeat this year as the result of a shift in America’s notoriously fickle political pendulum, which will swing their way once again. Republicans can take pride in the fact that Barack Obama won by running to the right of recent Democratic candidates, promising to cut taxes for ninety five percent of Americans and criticizing government run health care as extreme. Indeed, one of the most significant achievements of the conservative ascendancy occurred within the Democratic Party, whose shift to the right occurred only as a response to the successes of Republican politics and resulted in the election of both Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.
Republicans can also take pride in their performance, because, as the party responsible for one unpopular war and another failing war, associated with an unpopular president and tainted by scandal, they were competitive through the end of this election, which they lost as a result of the intervening financial crisis. A plausible case can be made that had John McCain communicated a more inspirational message and proposed a more substantive agenda, he would have still won. Such second-guessing, however, is not worthy of a party that needs to begin charting its path back to power.
Had the Democrats lost this election, they would have never been expected to win one: they had everything going for them, including a supportive media and a tremendous financial advantage. The Democratic prevalence, however, was not as much a victory for them as a defeat for the Republicans. Yet, they were still able to prove that America’s competitive political system maintains its capacity to hold itself accountable, a necessary prerequisite for the preservation of our democracy and a great feat for their party.
While I remain convinced John McCain was the best candidate in this race, my preference was not validated by the American people. Nevertheless, it is important to recognize that politics is not a competition between candidates – it is a battle over ideas. Should the Democrats succeed in delivering the country from its current slump, they can claim victory. Until then, they will be confined to their disagreeable criticisms of Republican governance.
Although I am obviously skeptical of the probability of his success and the practicality of his agenda, for the sake of my country I hope Barack Obama is a successful president. For the past eight years many Democrats, engulfed in anger, have disrespected President Bush as much as they disagreed with him. Our nation has sacrificed many great opportunities as a result, and Republicans should do America a favor by refusing to reciprocate the hate liberals have spewed against President Bush toward President Obama.
Ironically, the man elected president Tuesday achieved victory by trashing our current president who, by appointing the most diverse cabinet in history and entrusting the incredibly important Department of State to two African Americans, played a major role in enabling the biracial Obama’s ascendancy into the White House. While the Democratic Party deserves credit for the nomination and successful election of our first African American President, the Republican Party’s contributions to this great moment have not been insignificant and should not be forgotten.
Going forward, President Obama and his allies in Congress must carefully avoid a liberal overreach if they hope to prevent a backlash in 2010. While President Bush’s administration has strained the nation’s appetite for conservatism, our tolerance for liberalism is even less. In fact, a small dose of liberalism is said to be conservatisms best friend. If Obama and his allies doubt the truthfulness of that axiom, they should remember this: the last and only time America elected its third consecutive president to a second term was in 1820, when James Monroe had a luxury Barack Obama surely will not: the absence of a significant opponent.
That’s the bottom line.
Tray Smith is a political columnist for the Atmore Advance. He is a student at Escambia County High School and can be reached at tsmith_90@

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