Some reflections on last night’s result:
First and foremost, I’m just glad it produced a clear margin of victory. At the time of writing, the BBC is reporting the electoral college votes as 349-162. I hope this will ensure that the legitimacy of Obama’s victory is universally acknowledged, in contrast to what happened in 2000 and 2004. Certainly I was impressed (and not in the least bit surprised) by the generosity and gracefulness of McCain’s concession speech, and hope that will set the tone among his supporters. (Edit: this Spectator report gives me grounds for optimism, too.)
Those of us who have always been instinctively (though by no means uncritically) pro-American have particular cause to be thankful for Obama’s victory. Being pro-America has not always been easy over the past eight years, not just because of the grievous errors that George W. Bush has made, but because it has put us so out of step with the prevailing mood in western Europe, particularly on the left.
A McCain victory would have made the forces of anti-Americanism both unassailable and insufferable for the next four years. “They’re so racist! They’re so bigoted! They’re so ignorant!”, people would have crowed – while quietly ignoring the fact that no western European nation has ever given a black person the opportunity even to be defeated in an election for high office, nor is likely to do so any time soon.
- A point I need to remember for myself: Caesar remains Caesar, even when his name is President Obama.
As for those for whom today is a day of dismay and disappointment, or even of anger and bitterness: I know. It’s awful. The British election result in 1992 and the American result in 2000 are seared into my own consciousness. I imagine that the 2008 US election will be the same for you.
American conservatism will be back, and I hope that its best instincts – “Prudence. A sense of reality. Understanding limits. Respect for tradition – it didnt happen by accident. The long view. Respect for the individual and his rights. A knowledge that life is worth living, were lucky to be here” – will prevail over its worst (“Barack HUSSEIN Obama”). That won’t be easy: sadly, the reality of heavy electoral defeat is often a retreat to the base and its basest instincts (ask the British Conservatives after 1997; ask the early 1980s Labour party).
So to my conservative friends I say two things. First: be upset, be dismayed, be angry. But then look forward and start rebuilding the best of conservatism. The conservatism in which Peggy Noonan (from whom the quotation above comes) prevails over Rush Limbaugh; William Buckley over Sarah Palin.
And second: try to forget for a moment what a disaster you think President Obama will be. You’ll have four years to draw people’s attention to that. Try to celebrate for a moment what an American story the rise of Obama is. It really couldn’t have happened anywhere else, and the ability of America to produce stories like that is one of the things that is most worth conserving about it.
Finally, if you don’t like what I’ve said in this post, then at least accept the spirit in which it is written: as words motivated by pro-Americanism, not anti-, from one who has a great deal of love, affection and respect for your nation. If anything in this post comes across any differently, then that’s a failure of my writing, not a sign of any hostility even towards those on the other side of the argument in this election. I’m happy today; you’re maybe not. Please let’s still be friends though.