Thursday, 6 November 2008

North Carolina to Obama

Okay, I was off by three electoral votes—he won 364.

My optimism got the better of me—I also said the national margin of victory would be nine points rather than the actual six. I reversed the results in Indiana and Missouri (Obama won the former and lost the latter) and was overly sanguine about the Republican heartland (North Dakota stayed with McCain).

But my intuition was much sharper than I had any reason to expect based on past experience. I sensed the shift back in September and said so right here (I swear I haven’t altered any back posts except to correct a spelling error here and there.)

The level of anxious anticipation and doubt among my friends and acquaintances was quite amazing. I don’t mean to twit you as nervous nellies, but maybe having lived under military dictatorship I had a little more faith in our rickety old democracy than the average person.

Even under Pinochet Chile was capable of holding a reasonably fair election in 1988 and booting the old criminal out of the presidency although not entirely out of power. (That took another 20 years.) When your time’s up, it’s very hard to hold back the tide of history. Even the execrable Mugabe in Zimbabwe isn’t managing to do it very well despite his control of the entire repressive apparatus and his utter lack of empathy with the starving people he misrules.

So based on my modest success, I will now venture another set of predictions.

I think Obama will prove to be a remarkably astute and methodical politician who will line up his forces, gauge his options and move swiftly to win the victories he needs. No doubt the resistance will be intense, but he has to know that the mandate of this week won’t last forever. The exiting Republicans have less credibility than a memoirist on Oprah right now, so now’s the time to pounce.

No one is talking about defense spending, but a collapsed economy might provide an excellent moment to carve out some substantial savings from that overblown monster while waiting for economic activity to revive and refloat the collective boat. A good way to finance that big middle-class tax cut he promised us, too.

Britain established national health care during the depths of its post-war devastation of the late 1940s. That’s nowhere on the radar, but a radically simple proposal hitting Congress in the first 60 days or so might get a lot further than Hillary’s ill-starred plate of spaghetti.

Financial markets reregulation is a no-brainer and should be readied for action before his daughters have arranged their stuffed animals in the upstairs bedrooms.

I wonder if the touchier topics might not get pushed down the list a little so that the political hits come after the first big votes. Among these: closing Guantánamo Bay, dismantling ‘Don’t ask, don’t tell,’ withdrawal from Iraq.

Anyway, we’ll know soon enough.

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