Experience, and particularly Barack Obama’s purported lack thereof, had been a rhetorical hot button throughout this suspenseful electoral race. I personally considered it a powerful argument in favor of John McCain not because I believe experience particularly hones political skill or renders a candidate more fit to govern, but because it provides the electorate with a reasonable estimate of what kind of shortcomings (and of what magnitude) to expect from that candidate. Voters could then assess this empirically observed predisposition for disaster and rationally decide whether they can live with it for the next four years.
The American electorate must not be nearly as risk averse as I am since it just gave Barack ‘Black-Box’ Obama a resounding vote of confidence. He managed to build a vast but unstable coalition around a deliberately vague platform of ‘all-things-to-all-people’ platitudes designed to be meaningful only in the mind’s eye of the uncritical beholder. Not only are his idealistic (read: loony leftist) supporters in for a rude awakening once Obama fails to fulfill their fantasies, but his staunchest critics too may be disappointed when their apocalyptic predictions are not fulfilled: “Obama’s like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.”
The president elect has not said or done anything earth-shattering since delivering his victory speech, but so far the signals from his transitional team should be encouraging to anyone hoping for a centrist or at least non-ideologically leftist disposition from the new administration. Obama has already hinted at leaving the Bush tax cuts alone, is keeping Bush’s Secretary of Defense, has dropped his windfall profits tax proposal, and has aggregated an economic team which even Karl Rove considers respectable. While the leftist fringes are understandably experiencing buyer’s remorse, some seedy corners of the Right are swarming with hyper paranoid delusions fueled by the urge to preemptively demonize Obama before he has even taken office, let alone implemented any concrete executive orders.
Conspiratorial rumors about Obama’s birth certificate and of him being a Muslim or the son of a communist spy are not just bizarre and ridiculous in themselves, but they signal a failure at constructive political introspection from the Right. Republicans better address their shortcoming and work at redefining their message going forward. Immediately after the election I was concerned whether most voters were so emotionally invested in Obama’s success that they would airbrush his upcoming debacles. Now that the fringes of the Right are starting to agitate so soon after the election, my biggest worry is that some of Obama’s opponents may be so emotionally invested in hatred of their political rival as to lose the ability (and credibility) for mature political debate.