Barack Obama will be the 44th president of the United States.
The news isn’t shocking. This was the Democrats’ year. It was clear early on. Economic turmoil, a brazen display of media bias, a campaign cash deficit, and an unpopular war were too much for John McCain to overcome. If he had, 2008 would have been the biggest political upset in decades.
Conservatives are already bemoaning an impending Obama presidency, and with good reason. Some view it as the genesis of a new era of liberal dominance. I view it differently. Obama’s victory means America is in for a bumpy ride, but it presents unique opportunities. Conservatism has suffered some blows within the GOP ranks, and it’s time for a revival. Liberty-honoring Americans can make that happen.
But first, some perspective. The ’08 elections will be remembered as a cycle in which everything that could go wrong did go wrong for Republicans. President Bush’s popularity was akin to Hoover’s in 1932. Gas prices were sky-high most of the year. A mortgage orgy led to economic crisis and a roller coaster stock market. Even issues favorable to the Republican Party — such as foreign policy — were overshadowed by domestic concerns. In every area, the deck was stacked against the GOP.
The party’s line-up of candidates was a loser. Unlike most recent Republican presidential races, there was no heir apparent. Instead, party faithful chose from a smorgasbord of personalities and philosophies — from the socially conservative but tax-hiking Mike Huckabee to the fiscally conservative but womanizing Rudy Giuliani to the libertarian but crotchety Ron Paul, and everything in between. One positive is that it made for good television — the debates were like watching pay-per-view wrestling for free. But it was devastating for party cohesion.
Out of that motley bunch, Republicans chose McCain. How the Arizona senator became the party’s pick is one of several ’08 enigmas. I see it as the result of Huckabee’s rise, Giuliani’s demise, Fred Thompson’s fizzle-out, and demographic changes in South Carolina that favored McCain. Infighting between Huck and Mitt Romney didn’t help.
The result: few in the base were happy with the final choice of McCain. In fact, for all the hubbub about disenchanted Hillary voters sticking it to Barack, it was the Republicans who didn’t galvanize. It wasn’t until the waning weeks of the general election campaign that true conservatives starting rallying around McCain, mostly out of Obama fear. The energy needed to win a gritty race in an anti-GOP year never was there.
So, what’s in store for the future? To begin, we shouldn’t whitewash the situation. It’s going to be a tough four years for the conservative cause. Obama will be in the White House and liberal Democrats will dominate Congress and maintain a left-leaning majority on the Supreme Court. We could see reversals on a host of issues – the sanctity of life and tax cuts to name two. Still, there is cause for hope.
The top reason: Obama simply can’t live up to the expectations he created during the campaign. The economy will continue to slide, aided by the new president’s policies. We could see another terrorist attack on American soil, and Obama’s Chamberlainesque foreign policy will be a tepid response. He’ll try to balance placating his far left constituents with pleasing the American people, and it won’t work. Obama can’t fulfill his pledges and remain popular.
That will give conservative Republicans an opportunity in 2010 and 2012. Mid-term elections historically break toward the party that doesn’t occupy the White House, so the Democrats’ gains this year could be eroded, eliminated, or even reversed in two years, especially if the economy continues its downward spiral. That’s the bittersweet blessing of being the loyal opposition — the guy in the White House gets blamed for everything.
To match the challenge during the mid-term and 2012 elections, the GOP has some up-and-coming conservative stars. Sarah Palin is one, although I don’t see her candidacy getting much traction. Bobby Jindal, the Indian-American governor from Louisiana, is a staunch conservative who could be the GOP’s perfect answer to incumbent Obama in 2012. Jindal could do for the Republicans what Obama did for the Democrats in 2008.
The presence of stalwart conservatives in Congress will continue to be felt, although it’s going to be tough. Be proud of men like Indiana Congressman Mike Pence and South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint who voted against the financial bailout. Fiscal hawks will be a minority in the coming years, but the economic upheaval caused by Obama’s presidency will present new opportunities.
It’s been said before, but it’s worth saying again: conservative principles were not on the ballot Tuesday. Candidates were, and most of them did not reflect true conservative principles. Obama’s ascension to the White House has given the Ronald Reagan coalition a new opportunity to reorganize and reunite — and the campaign for change starts now.