On a gorgeous November evening in 2008, surrounded by the shimmering lights of Times Square and swelling anticipation of the people milling about, I sat next to Jane Hamsher to comment on the historic night and election returns for the BBC. It was the first live worldwide simulcast for the BBC. People watching on TV on any BBC station or listening on air all heard the same thing.
The BBC featured segments in Washington, D.C. where the right-leaning commenters were Ambassador John Bolton and David Frum. They had a group commenting in London. I was the lone conservative in New York. We were in a hotel ball room (a small one) with a floor to ceiling glass wall where one could see at eye level the jumbo television screens featuring speakers of Times Square. I had never done TV before. I had never done live TV. I was terrified and overwhelmed in the moment. I’m pretty sure the BBC had me on the show because they were hoping a neophyte would screw up and make conservatives look stupid.
The room throbbed with a party-like vibe. There were New York liberals dressed for a dinner party at Jay Gatsby’s manse. There were celebrities with fawning models around them. A guy unknown to me at the time, Ricky Gervais, walked away from his obsequious, gorgeous guests to come ask me if the returns from Florida were accurate. They were, I assured him. I turned to Jane and asked her who that was (he acted like he was a big deal). She didn’t know, either.
Between segments, producers would come over and blow sunshine around. The make up artist would hover and fuss. I was well and truly in the Twilight Zone.
It was obvious early on, and for weeks before, that Barack Obama would win the presidency. After John McCain’s melodramatic campaign suspension to go back to D.C. and do precisely nothing, the race was over. I had friends monitoring returns in all the swing states so that I could be on firm ground when I reported/commented. The results were grim. For about an hour before we could announce it on TV, we knew that it was over.
Barack Obama was declared the new President of the United States. The room, Times Square, the world, erupted in joy. There were tears of gladness and hugs and excitement — except for one woman in the room. Lithe and elegant, she bowed her head and wailed. She ran up to me, knowing that I was the only Republican in the room, and asked incredulously, “How can you not cry? Do you not know what this means? I am from Cuba. I know men such as this!”
I didn’t cry. I felt miserable. John McCain was a terrible candidate — old, crotchety, interventionist. He was a good man but the wrong man for the times. In the face of the new, young, and black candidate, he had no chance. That our party couldn’t see the obvious was more distressing to me than the adoring fans gleefully calling family and friends on their phones.
The next day, on the front page of the Huffington Post, lefty Oliver Willis joked that my coverage was racist. It would be the beginning of not-so-funny vilifying not just of me but of anyone not enthusiastically pro-Obama.
I hoped that maybe the President Obama would be a different man than the candidate Obama. My hopes were misplaced. He governed exactly how I expected him to govern and then some. Horrid legislation that was sure to strangle the economy and produce unintended consequences got passed. What didn’t pass through Congress got passed through the President’s magic pen and paper or through the courts.
America was humiliated abroad. The president managed to be a messier interventionist than his predecessor. A fragile Iraq and Afghanistan were abandoned only to fall into terror and ruin spilling into neighboring countries. He bumbled in Egypt, Libya, Syria. He emboldened Iran. He inadvertently strengthened Russia and China.
At home, civil liberties were lost. Freedom of speech shrank. Journalists were bugged. Any policy criticism was racist. Any concern for freedom of speech and conscience was bigoted. People were out of work and it was getting worse so the Obama administration redefined the unemployement rate to make things look better. Millions had given up even looking for work. The vaunted infrastructure plan never happened but a lot of cronies got rich looting the taxpayer coffers.
The majority didn’t matter. Referendum votes (even in California) were overturned by activist judges. After definitive mid-term rebukes, Barack Obama governed like he had overwhelming mandates. “I won,” he said with his chin in the air.
If Donald Trump governs like Barack Obama, not one word out of a lefty’s mouth, not one rock thrown, not one window broken, not one catchy phrase will matter. Pleas for understanding will fall on deaf ears. Requests for tolerance will be met with one word rebukes, “Radical! Bigot!” Every motive will be questioned. Every action taken condemned as small-minded resistance to progress. Those in opposition to Donald Trump’s greatness will lack vision, intelligence, and be despisers of science and reason. Stupid. They can’t help themselves, really, they’re just ignoramuses. They don’t count.
I actually believe that President Donald Trump will be more tolerant, open, and inclusive than President Obama. He could hardly be less so — not that leftists will notice. Any step that’s not taken in the direction they deem progressive is backwards. So, prepare for eight years of “regression.”
While watching the unfolding “tragedy,” lefties would be wise to remember a whole group of people who know exactly how they feel. That would be the half of the population they condemned as racist, bigoted, homophobic people clinging to their guns and religion. Except they weren’t. At least one third of these people actually voted for Barack Obama and it still wasn’t enough.
Now, Trump voters rejoice, many as shocked as Hillary’s angry mob. They know just how painful it can be to be on the outside looking in. The rioting mobs have a reason to be frightened and angry. Should they be treated in kind, it will be a long eight years.