Election 2008

President of the United States

I'm happy that Obama beat McCain; I think that was the better of the two possible outcomes (or three outcomes if you count months of dragging court battles separately. A third party win cannot be considered a possible outcome in this country.) McCain 2000 might have done a decent job, but McCain Vista, "Now with More Steve Schmidt and Sarah Palin", was right out as a sane choice. McCain might have reverted to his former pre-Karl-Rove self if he had won, but the Palin choice could not have been reversed.

That said, I cannot express much optimism about the Obama administration. Realistically, it will favor large businesses at the expense of individuals and small businesses, continue to remove what were once considered inalienable rights (albeit different ones first than a Republican administration), and make little or no attempt to advance the progressive agenda espoused by many of the liberals who put the most work into supporting Obama. We can, at least, hope for more intelligent speeches and press conferences than the last eight years have provided. Nonetheless, the office of President is badly incentivized, and putting a different person in it is a second order effect.

Massachusetts Propositions

Proposition One was a no-op. Had it passed, it would not have been enacted anyway. Ballot initiatives in Mass are non-binding, and the legislature can fuck them six ways to Sunday; we can be sure they would have. I wish it had passed anyway; I saw it as a nonbinding vote of confidence in the Massachusetts government, and I voted No Confidence.

I'm happy Proposition Two passed. It's a small step toward ending the War on Drugs. Do you remember the good old days, before the War on Terror, when the War on Drugs was our stupidest war? Anyway, I'll bet even odds the legislature will weasel out of enacting this or amend it in a way that guts it.

Proposition Three was a debacle. Of all the issues on my ballot Tuesday, this is the one whose outcome depresses me the most, even though the personal impact on me will be low (I live a mile away from one of the two remaining tracks, and I've never bothered going). I am disheartened because I can find no interpretation of this question which does not indicate strong underlying bigotry. Why did people vote to ban dog racing? The case that it involves genuine cruelty to the dogs is weak at best. One can expand the case to opposing any sort of use of dogs for human benefit, but this is disingenuous. Unless slightly over 50% of the state became vegans sometime between Monday night and Tuesday morning, a vote for such reasons cannot be seen as compatible with genuine beliefs about animals. However, we do see that "Cute Animals" has a track record of success as a hot button issue to get people to vote for ill-considered measures, much like "Save the Children". We also see that dog racing is a notoriously lower-class sport, and one with already weak and declining participation at that. I am led to the conclusion that people seem to have been influenced along the following lines: "greyhounds are doggies, just like my pet doggies and my friends' pet doggies. They are Us. People who race greyhounds are not like me or my friends. They are Them. I will vote for the doggies, because they are Us." Truly it shall be known as a victory for tolerance and compassion to our fellow man.

Other States' Ballot Initiatives

Bans on gay marriage passed in several places. I sighed and rolled my eyes; what else could I do? I am aware of at least two states, California and Florida, which banned gay marriage in spite of also having gone for Obama in the electoral college. This should be additional evidence, in case one needed more, that Obama's election should not be taken as a mandate for a socially progressive political agenda. In fact, some evidence indicates that in California, at least, the measure may have passed because of the additional turnout of Obama supporters who were against it.

Beyond that, I did not have time to follow most other ballot initiatives or House/Senate elections. I'm still rooting for Stuart Smalley, though.

Not a Mandate

"You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means."

There seems to be a tendency for those who strongly supported Obama to interpret his victory as a mandate for the issues about which they cared the most. I cannot concur with this interpretation. I instead believe that this election, like others, was decided not on a matter of policy but on a matter of image, charisma, and short-term fear. The failing economy caused people to be more afraid of poverty than external threats, and in such an environment, without a clearly identifiable Them, Obama's hopeful spin beat out McCain's antagonistic spin. If Lehman Brothers had fallen due to a terrorist attack on Manhattan instead of due to internal incompetence and greed, we would very likely have President-Elect McCain right now.

We Have Seen the Enemy

Many of my friends and acquaintances have been treating the Obama election as a personal victory and an emotional catharsis. There is perhaps nothing inherently wrong with this, but too many of these same people were too quick in the past to mock Republicans for identifying personally with a candidate who had economic policies against their own interests, or even to mock the "lower classes" for cheering at sporting events.

The lesson is clear. When "we" are being happy and cheering for something, it our due, and those who would attack us as foolhardy must surely be doing so from malice or resentment. When "they" are being happy and cheering for something, they are fools, and pointing out their folly is an act of selfless compassion, much like that of a missionary. The contempt, one may be assured, is mutual.

In Conclusion

I shall leave you with this link to an excellent work hosted by Project Gutenberg.

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