Like most of you, I am almost too tired to feel the full elation of the moment. Indeed, there are some ways in which I've even felt a little resentment toward being congratulated (as a nation) for the purportedly prime event - the election of an African-American as president. I have to say that Barack Obama's race rarely even entered my mind. It was a non-issue all along, and I'll bet it was for a vast majority of Americans.
No, the paramount fact that mattered to me was that his election would end the hijacking of my country by a bona fide criminal gang. Simply unleashing the US Civil Service and Justice Department to do their jobs again, that would have sufficed, and any democrat would do it.
But, yes, I'm more enthusiastic than that, I admit it. The fellow is clearly brilliant... and calmly levelheaded enough to make brilliance work. His lack of executive experience needn't worry us because:
(1) he will appoint a skilled and varied plethora of good people, and
(2) his campaign showed uncanny administrative and executive skill.
Indeed, I recall eight or nine months ago, when BHO said "If you want to know how I'll lead, watch my campaign." Though slightly arrogant, the statement also showed stunning predictive confidence and accuracy, plus a philosophical readiness to be judged by clear cause/effect metrics... and I'll bet you haven't heard anyone grant him those encomiums, to date!
Actually, there were TWO important speeches. And yes, McCain was classy... and I noticed that his Arizona crowd was polite and not crazy. A hopeful sign. Though of course the rightwing blame avalanche is going to come pounding in on McCain, drawing all the wrong lessons.
from this defeat. (More on this soon.)
But of course, it was BHO's speech that all the folks in our living room watched with transfixed attention.
(Oh, we threw an election eve party and you were all there in spirit.)
The speech ratcheted me ever closer to believing that this fellow is what he seems. (Pray God let it be so.) It was clear, inspiring, incisive, and completely on target.
He not only spoke about finishing off Culture War and made gracious gestures toward sincere republicans, but also mentioned the issues that matter most to me... a re-dedication toward science, problem-solving and pragmatism, after far too-long wallowing in a national state of drugged indignation addiction.
Nevertheless, there was a flaw. (And let's not get too lost in admiration to keep our citizen-skeptical eyes open for such. It is our duty!) During his speech, I did notice one possible slight misuse of a word.
I was shocked. And it transformed my opinion of this man!
Deeply disappointed, I turned to my friends and said what Anthony Quinn did, to Omar Sharif, in Lawrence of Arabia.
"He... is NOT... perfect."
Comments by others....
I simply lack the time to write anything longwinded. Tomorrow, perhaps, I'll start in on Suggestions For The New Administration... many of them cribbed from my list of 2006 proposals for Nacy Pelosi's newly democratic Congress. Alas, they are all unused...
But for now, let me clip and paste some wisdom from others.
First, from Mark Anderson, noted tech-business analyst - sent the day after the election to members of his Strategic News Service newsletter:
(Note, while SNS is definitely capitalist-investor oriented and pro-tech, nobody was most caustically anti-Bush earlier than Mark Anderson.)
To All SNS Members:
While many Obama supporters are having a great day today (and many McCain supporters are feeling the opposite), I thought it would be appropriate to try to lay out what this election result may mean for business and, particularly, technology businesses.
First and foremost, in both the presidential and Congressional elections, what we have just seen is a broad-based repudiation of Bush, his administration and his actions. When I suggested to members, eight years ago, that Bush would be known as the worst president in U.S. history, some thought I was making a partisan statement. I wasn't, and I think it is safe to say that he has now cemented this dubious award.
Members know I have suggested that Obama's election would lead to a $95 average oil price (vs. $135 for McCain). I am still comfortable with this figure, but it was made prior to the economic destruction of the last month or so. While that may mean a somewhat lower average price out of the gate, this is only good news to a world that has gotten ill on asset bubbles, and which has been deeply damaged by oil pricing that was manipulated.
So, this election is a plus for oil pricing, in my opinion. Since oil pricing still drives most of the global economy, this is important.
Neither candidate was strong in economics, which is deeply worrying, but Obama assembled a much stronger advisory team, including Paul Volcker and Warren Buffet. If ability to choose good people is one key to success, Obama has earned our admiration over McCain (whose economic advisors included Carly Fiorina and Meg Whitman) on this score.
I believe that the world has already begun celebrating the selection of Obama, and that this will lead just as directly to sales for U.S. firms, as lost sales came from the Bush policy of preemptive warfare. What will surprise many Republicans, I think, is the depth, and quickness, of this global response. I expect to see a change in the U.S.' stature, both in foreign policy and in commerce, within days or weeks of Obama's inauguration. In fact, it probably has already begun.
This, too, is good news for business, since most revenues available to technology companies today are coming from non-U.S. sources.
Politically, I expect Obama to move even more toward the center, perhaps upsetting far left politicians, and surprising Republicans. His life is a history of finding common ground, rather than espousing a particular ideology, and this is what led him to create a big tent during the campaign.
As for tax policies, we'll have to wait and see what comes out of D.C. But I have always believed that it is impossible to have a healthy economy without having a strong middle class. Even Putin seems to understand this, although some Republicans cry "Communist" or "Socialist" without thinking this through.
If you kill the Golden Goose, no one wins.
So, it is important for the U.S. to strengthen its middle class. I want my money just as much as the next guy, but I don't want my country to collapse around me while I'm getting it. Having presided over the biggest spending and government bloat in history for the last eight years, Republicans should self-examine before complaining about paying the bill for this self-destructive behavior.
In fact, it will be a reaction to such profligacy which creates a successful New GOP, if there is to be one. The party faces two or three clear paths now, as it goes into introspection mode: follow the divisive, small-minded politics of Palin; continue to allow the church to dictate the agenda for the state; or move back into a business-driven center. As you can tell, I believe that only the third choice will lead to success.
For the moment, the worry now may be that the Democrats have too much power, again in reaction to Bush, at a time when we know that the U.S. does best when power is balanced between branches. If they don't show more self-restraint than the GOP under Bush, they'll be out in no time.
I now expect the Obama camp to do a number of smart things:
1. Move fast. The transition office is set to open today at noon. That's fast. I expect to hear the first appointments for staff this week, and to start hearing cabinet appointments within 1-2 weeks. I believe he will have a fully functioning executive branch, at the cabinet and top officer level, well before inauguration.
2. Move smart. I expect he will reset expectations, as he started to do last night in his speech. Perhaps a stimulus package is inevitable, since both parties and most other countries seem to believe in it, but after that comes a cold look at spending. If I'm right about this, this step will reassure many Republicans.
3. The Grand Tour. I expect to see a world tour very early in the year, during which we will see him re-establishing friendly relations with many countries around the world. This tour will have the feeling of a victory lap, with the whole world turning out in incredible numbers to see Obama, and welcome America back to being a friend, and not just a feared policeman.
4. The Campaign Is Over. I think we'll see a different Obama, almost immediately: more serious, more concerned, more focused on real problems and real solutions. Whether he has the steel to make policies stick and laws pass is the real question now, and this may be a lesson he will have to learn on the job.
As in his campaign, I don't expect Obama to do make any dumb moves. You don't get to be editor of the Harvard Law Review by being stupid, and Obama will be one of the most intelligent presidents we've had. After eight years of seeing stupid moves on a daily basis, the nation will breathe a sigh of relief. No longer will the world wonder, daily, what unconnected thing comes next. I also expect that, in complete opposition to the insulated, incurious current team, the new team will be open to real data and input from many sources.
Science will again matter.
This is also good news for technology companies, who depend upon the teaching and implementation of scientific ideas for their own staffing and sales. Alternative energy companies will prosper.
In summary, while many GOP members may be feeling as though they lost, I suspect they didn't, if returning to a healthy economy is the measure. The domestic economy faces serious issues, caused by a Cookie Jar approach to taxpayer money, not the least of which is a long history of job loss and job quality degradation. Reversing this trend ought to be the first priority of the new administration.
Wall St. really does need oversight, on national and international scales. Getting international agreement on assessing and regulating derivatives will have to be near the top of the Treasury's new list.
While there is much to worry about, I think this election adds to the sense that the right tools, and now players, are in place to fix the problems at hand. A smooth transition from Bernanke and Paulson to Bernanke and another Goldman-level global banking executive will be the next obvious step in repairing the damage.
We are now on track to an improved domestic, and global, economy. How long this will take depends upon how fast the Obama team can move, and on how many jobs are lost before the U.S. economy turns around.
CEO, Strategic News Service
And now --
From the Progressive Policy Institute:
Voters in U.S. 2008 presidential election: c. 131 million
Total voters in all U.S. pres. elections, 1788-1908: c. 137 million
What They Mean:
Last week's Trade Fact worried about trends in democracy abroad. This week, democracy at home seems in good health. This morning's estimates suggest that 131 million American men and women voted in yesterday's election -- 9 million more than in 2004, 25 million more than in 2000, and nearly as many as the combined total of all American voters in the 32 presidential elections between 1788 and 1908. Voters' sole complaint seems to have been about long lines. President-elect Obama, Vice President-elect Biden, the 111th Congress and the newly elected state & local officials inherit lots of troubles and challenges, but also some enduring national strengths.
Commentary, generally enthusiastic, from 10 papers around the world:
Karachi-based Dawn is enthusiastic: "Mr. Obama provides excitement, a desperately needed jolt of political electricity. If he is elected, America will instantly be seen in a new light around the world ... because the country has found it within itself to turn to someone truly new, whose astonishing ascent could have happened nowhere else on earth. Only in America."
The West Australian covers reactions among Perth's expatriate American community:
Tel Aviv's Ha'aretz is admiring: "Yesterday, the U.S. once again justified its title as leader of the free world: It concluded a campaign that is a worthy model for emulation.":
Tokyo's Asahi Shimbun is cautious and focused on diplomacy: "For many Japanese government officials, U.S. President-elect Barack Obama is an unknown quantity... Two key challenges will be Tokyo's support for the U.S.-led war against terrorism in Afghanistan, initiated by President George W. Bush, and cooperation in dealing with North Korea. [Prime Minister Taro] Aso said Wednesday that the Japan-U.S. relationship will remain the cornerstone of Japan's foreign policy."
Columnist Koh Lay Chin of Kuala Lumpur's New Straits Times says that "for the first time in history, people all over the world are riveted to an election they feel invested in, despite not sniffing anywhere near a green card":
Nairobi's East African Standard is as extensive and enthusiastic as one might guess:
Belize's Amandla ponders race relations: "In Belize this evening, apart from the floods and the catastrophe on the Northern Highway south of the Haulover Bridge, the headline news is really in the United States, and it's all about looking forward to tomorrow. Someone who looks like a lot of us Belizeans, Barack Obama, the Senator from Illinois, is actually leading the polls as the favorite to win the presidency of the most powerful nation in the world. Many Belizeans are holding their collective breath. They are glued to their television sets as they hope for what Americans forty years ago would have considered a miracle inconceivable.":
Columnist Humberto Campodonico of Lima's Diario la Republica, reporting from Big Timber, MT, invokes history: "Es claro que los retos y desafios para el ganador solo se comparan a los que tuvo que encarar Franklin D. Roosevelt hace mas de 70 a?os." [It is clear that the challenges for the victory can be compared only to those Franklin Roosevelt faced 70 years ago.]:
Dublin's Irish Times ponders lessons for Irish politicians from the US' Internet-based campaigns:
And the Toronto Star's Vinay Menon sees a bleak future for America's standup comedy industry: