Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Random Wanderings on the Morning After

The most surprising thing about this election to The Eye is how blue Deschutes County turned out to be.

Posted By on Wed, Nov 5, 2008 at 7:21 AM

The most surprising thing about this election to The Eye is how blue Deschutes County turned out to be.

Not only did Barack Obama carry this once-reliably Republican stronghold, but Democrat Judy Stiegler edged out two-term incumbent Republican Chuck Burley for the Oregon House District 54 seat, and Democrat Alan Unger opened a can of whup-ass on veteran Republican County Commissioner Mike Daly. That means a Democrat will sit on the county commission for the first time since the early 1990s.

What happened? The Republicans still have a registration edge in Deschutes County, but The Eye believes many, if not most, of those Republicans are the rational, moderate variety - not the fire-breathin', gun-totin', raw-meat-chewin' breed that cheered Sarah Palin for calling Obama a "socialist" and a friend of terrorists. And rational, moderate Republicans here (and all over the country) were nauseated by the sleazy tone of the McCain campaign and simply didn't bother to vote.

No doubt analysis of the election returns over the next few days will bear out or disprove this hypothesis.

The Bill Sizemore brand seems almost as tarnished in Oregon as the Republican brand is nationally. Four of the five measures Sizemore put on the ballot went down; at this writing only Measure 64 - forbidding public employees from contributing to candidates or political causes through their unions - appears possibly headed for victory.

John McCain's concession speech last night was the high point of his campaign. It was dignified, gracious and patriotic. If America had seen more of this John McCain during the campaign the race might have had a different outcome - or at least have been a lot closer.

Unfortunately, some of McCain's troglodyte supporters couldn't resist booing every time he mentioned Obama's name. Those folks are a class act all the way.

On the national level, how will Republicans react to their crushing defeat? The Eye's guess is that, at least for a while, they're going to make excuses and look for scapegoats, blaming "the biased liberal media," claiming election fraud (yeah, right - the Democrats stole 300 electoral votes and four million popular votes), and arguing that McCain/Palin could have won if the campaign had been better-funded and better managed.

True, the Republican campaign WAS atrociously mismanaged and had less money than Obama's. But the real story is that the nation soundly repudiated the disastrous Republican policies - trickle-down economics, wholesale deregulation and a cocky, belligerent foreign policy - that got us into our current mess at home and abroad.

Americans also repudiated the tactics of fear and smear that Republicans have been employing ever since George Bush the First ran the notorious Willie Horton ad against Mike Dukakis. Americans are sick and tired of that crap. Poll after poll shows it. Barack Obama understood it. John McCain did not. And John McCain lost, big-time.

If Republicans can purge or at least marginalize the party's lunatic fringe elements, abandon Turdblossom Rove's brand of fear and smear and offer a positive, realistic alternative to the Democrats, they can make a comeback fairly quickly. If they can't or won't, they will wander in the political wilderness for a long, long time.

Finally, The Eyes suspects this could turn out to be as big a political watershed as the 1932 victory of Franklin D. Roosevelt. The Eye's parents came of age during the Great Depression and cast their first votes - like millions of other members of  their generation -- for FDR. They remained lifelong Democrats

Watching the huge Obama rally in Chicago's Grant Park on election night, The Eye was overwhelmed by a sense of history. The millions of young people who worked and voted for Obama this year and gave him the victory will remember the exhilaration of last night as long as they live. They have imprinted on the Democratic Party, and they are likely to remain Democrats for life - or at least for many years.

The Democratic Party increasingly is looking like the future. The GOP increasingly is looking like the party of  (to borrow a great phrase from New York Times columnist Frank Rich) "grumpy old white guys watching Bill O'Reilly in a bunker."

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