President Barack Obama. Not the words which most Republicans had hoped to hear on election night, but a reality most could see coming. The failures of the Republican Party to reign in its excesses, stick to its principles and pursue positive policies over opportunistic self-interest played as large a role in winning Obama the White House as his rousing oratory and grassroots organizing skills.
While McCain did win Texas, he won by a smaller margin than any recent Republican presidential contender and his nationwide results were respectable, but not really close enough to ever raise much hope as the evening wore on. As the map of states won and lost became clear, it was a reminder of how strongly the nation remains divided along geographic lines, with the west and south resisting Obama’s message of change and the northeast and Pacific coast firmly behind him.
I spent much of my day handing out flyers for our local Republican candidates and talking to voters outside of our precinct polling spot. I wasn’t alone. Some teenage Democrats were there with me, promoting Congressional candidate Larry Joe Doherty, best known for having turned his judicial experience into several seasons hosting the television courtroom reality show Texas Justice.
I found myself in the peculiar situation of promoting Republican candidates while being reluctant to enthusiastically endorse the party establishment. I took the tack of emphasizing local candidates with a strong reputation for supporting reform and individual liberty, trying to push the message that our local party is different from the national GOP and lay some groundwork for the new and better Republican Party of the future. While I can’t take too much personal credit for the outcome of the election, I did have the consolation of seeing the TV Judge lose to our Republican incumbent, who won over a lot of voters by staunchly opposing the government’s recent massive bailout of irresponsible banks.
Turnout in our precinct was surprisingly low. Apparently about 47% of the registered voters had voted early, reducing election day crowds. Poll workers reported some short lines early in the morning and at the end of the day, but basically crowds were small and there was little waiting. When I showed up after lunch there was no wait at all. Voting on the electronic ballot machines was quick and efficient, marred only by the inability to get a detailed printed record of my vote.
We had a poll watcher there from VoteRescue sitting outside the building with a sign and table, asking for reports of voting problems, but no one bothered her because everything went like clockwork. Seeing the VoteRescue table there did raise the question in my mind of how many other tables like that were set up around the country, and how much of a role just seeing someone soliciting complaints plays in creating the perception that there should be voting irregularities, and generating complaints just by existing and planting the idea in peoples’ heads.
Our experience was quite different from some of the unpleasant stories which filtered in during the day from other parts of the country of voter suppression and intimidation, especially in some of the northern cities where turnout was very high. In Philadelphia the Black Panthers had members posted at the polls to keep Republican voters away. Widespread problems with malfunctioning voting machines were reported in Detroit. In Chicago there were reports of problems with voter intimidation and faulty equipment. The phone bank at watchdog group Election Protection received more than 50,000 calls about voting problems during the day.
With an unambiguous result at the end of the day, which no small irregularities are going to be able to change, the kinds of outraged complaints and widespread lawsuits which characterized the 2000 and 2004 elections seem pretty unlikely, except in some local races where the occasional disgruntled TV comedian can’t accept defeat.
In his acceptance speech to a massive crowd at Grant Park in Chicago, President-Elect Obama offered a conciliatory message to the nation, including his opponents. It has to have been reassuring for Republicans who listened to the speech that Obama sounded an awful lot like a Republican, saying “Let’s remember that it was a man from this state who first carried the banner of the Republican party to the White House, a party founded on the values of self-reliance and individual liberty and national unity.” He went on to quote founding Republican Abraham Lincoln’s wise words: “We are not enemies, but friends. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection.” Later he sounded almost like a Republican himself, saying: “To those who would tear the world down, we will defeat you. To those who seek peace and security, we will support you.”
Obama offered reassurance and the hand of shared patriotism and reconciliation. Nonetheless, there are still a lot of worried conservatives, with concern focusing not just on Obama, but on the radicals in Congress and the Senate who may be given a free hand to set policy under a left-friendly administration. Many see Obama’s economic proposals as guaranteed to drive us from temporary crisis to long-term depression. A typical commenter on Free Republic expressed his panic, saying “I just pulled my investments and retirement funds out of the stock market tonight. I suggest every one else do it; the next month is going to be the worst economic collapse in Western civilization history.” Conservative Blogcritics writer S. J. Reidhead saw positives in the negatives, commenting that “There is a silver lining. When the economy goes completely south, and Obama pushes us into another ‘Great Depression’ when he gets finished with the Democrats they are going to be relegated to the same status the GOP had under (Franklin) Roosevelt.” She also expressed the enthusiasm which many Republicans who were displeased by McCain feel towards Sarah Palin, declaring: “I’ve already dedicated myself to Palin 2012! I think she is the best hope for the GOP.”
Here in Central Texas, Republican holdouts who are willing to admit they swam against the tide for Obama are just hoping that the damage which one-party rule in Washington can do in 4 years is limited and that our state government can play some role in protecting us from the excesses of Democrats run wild. We know that an assault is planned on some of the most basic elements of our Bill of Rights and that free speech and property rights and economic liberty are at risk, but we are not afraid to stand firm in defense of the ideals which our forefathers fought for and which still form the core of our national identity. The coming years of adversity will help us build a new and better party dedicated to the principles of individual liberty and personal responsibility.