"President-Elect Barack Obama." Squee!


It's been four days since The Election, and we haven't woken up, had martial law declared, gotten mired in recall battles and court cases, or otherwise had the results taken away from us. So it's good and safe to say that Barack Obama will be our next President. Some scattered thoughts:

It's so nice to have a President we can be proud of, and not have to flinch whenever he speaks. (I was truly dreading hearing four years of McCain's "My friends" on NPR.) President Obama clearly has the Presidential persona down, yet also has a human side. (And for that link, I don't even have to use the moments that made me tear up, like his grandmother's dying two days shy of seeing him elected, his acceptance speech promise of a puppy, or his comment on "shelter dogs being mutts, like me.")

Everybody's of course got a laundry list of what they hope for him to do. Salon.com urges Obama to go big and go liberal, and also argues that Bush's second term and Obama's election may mark the beginning of the Fourth Republic of the United States, with the previous three cycles starting in Washington, Lincoln, and FDR's elections. This would mean that Bush marked the end not just of a trend that started in Nixonland, but of a cycle that was twice that long.

Personally, I'd like President Obama's first act to be putting the Constitution back together. (The ACLU has a checklist / scorecard, in case you've lost track of just how many pieces it's been torn into.) Not only is it totally classy for your first act as President to be limiting your own power, but "Day One: End Torture" provides a good opportunity for consensus-building, as President Obama can get Sen. McCain up there with him for the signing.

I'll be interested to see how President Obama pairs Constitution repair, and rolling back recent expansions of Federal power, with all of the other things that we expect of him. Health care, energy, the environment, the economy, war, terrorism, ... I think he's got his opportunities to do it - by mercilessly refactoring existing systems to get out all of the cruft that's built up over time, there should be opportunities to make these improvements or put new programs in place while limiting the size, cost, and complexity of the overall system.

And, as long as we're talking about the fates of established systems, it will be interesting to see what happens to the Rep. and Dem. parties, and to the Congressional status quo. Parties are never static, of course, and times are ripe for some realignment (whether as drastic as Salon's Fourth Republic theory or not). Will the Sarah Palin religious right peel off from the more libertarian wing of the party? Will the more conservative Dems shift into Independents or Republicans? Senator Lieberman, for example, is not far from the switch, and it's unlikely the Dems will try too hard to keep him.

On the other hand, maybe it's the more progressive end of the Democratic Party that shakes things up. My own Congressman, John Dingell, is a legend of the house - not least of all for stubbornly resisting needed changes to the nation's transportation and energy systems. While his decades of defending Detroit's buggy whip manufacturers has always been the short-term best strategy for him, this kind of enabling behavior has helped put the automakers - and Michigan - in the place we are today. Nor does Congressman Dingell seem aware that a change is needed. When Springsteen played EMU's campus in support of Obama, Dingell addressed the crowd on the need for change - and cemented the irony of the situation by calling for investment in "our infrastructure - roads and bridges and airports." Mr. Dingell, can you hear my head shaking in dismay? What about trains and buses? What about looking at the ways we build our neighborhoods and cities? If you're going to call for change, shouldn't you demonstrate at least marginal awareness of how outdated a "roads and bridges" approach to infrastructure (and energy, and the economy) is?

If Michigan's recession is going to be V-shaped - rather than L-shaped - we need some tough love. Our automakers need to change. Our communities need to change. Our attitudes need to change. While the short-run benefits of keeping our local Representative at the reins are still good, we've long since passed the point where we can keep living on short-run profits. Dingell's challenge by California's Henry Waxman for his Committee Chairmanship will force him to either radically re-examine his strategy or else lose control, and either of those will help Michigan make the changes we need to.

It will all be fun to watch, though.

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Squees all around

I think the magnitude of his win really hit me during parent-teacher conferences. I had a student who is black and almost totally blind. He is also sharp as a tack and very smart. His mom and dad came in to see me and I had nothing but glowing things to say. I mentioned that this student had said he wanted to be a lawyer and go to UM. I said that I was a lawyer and lived close to UM. His mom patted his hand and said, "He can be anything he wants." Then she paused and said, "And he can even be President."

Btw, I said that this was fine, as long as he remembered his middle school teacher with a nice ambassadorship to the Bahamas or something :)

Personally, I thought it was amazing just to be part of what was going on at the CB on Tuesday. Seeing all of those folks being so excited about an election...wow. I wish we could do this every election.