The votes are mostly in and Barack Obama has decisively defeated John McCain to become the first black president of the United States.

Based on the wide array of candidates that initially ran for president this year from both parties I think it was only a matter of time before a black person or a woman would have been elected to either or both of our country’s highest offices. Prior to 2008 I certainly didn’t think this would be that year.

There will be plenty of what I will call Wednesday morning quarterbacking by pundits and others as to how Obama won or more likely why McCain lost.

Obama won because he had a consistent message of change and he successfully tied McCain to President Bush who isn’t likely to win any awards for good governance.

He also used his incredible charisma to spread his message and gave hope to millions of Americans who wanted to be inspired and uplifted. As Hillary Clinton learned it didn’t matter that there was a severe lack of substance in the message, it sounded great and that’s all that mattered. Also despite associations with dubious characters like the Rev. Jeremiah Wright and Bill Ayers Obama managed to put on a Teflon shield and watch the criticisms just bounce off without putting any real chinks in the armor. The overwhelming support of the news media helped in this regard as they saw the attacks on Obama using Wright and Ayers as either racist or old news and gave them short shrift by relegating them to the back pages of the newspaper if they covered them at all. But the biggest factor may have been Obama’s ground game. It was crucial in defeating Hillary and proved to be extremely effective as the campaign registered millions of new voters and managed to increase voter turnout in areas that had been long ignored by both parties.

For McCain, the loss can be generally summed up by one word, confusion. After being given up for dead early in the campaign he raced back, snatched the nomination from frontrunner Mitt Romney and began to plot his strategy. The Straight Talk Express of 2000 that so enamored the media when McCain was attacking the Republican establishment all but disappeared as he moderated his views to appeal to conservatives and wound up turning off his former media allies. As for a cohesive campaign strategy I certainly didn’t see one. McCain tried several different tactics but by not sticking to a central theme he couldn’t get any traction. Then there was the general distrust from the conservative base of the GOP that he tried to mollify by selecting Sarah Palin. The selection of Palin while energizing conservatives also set the McCain camp up as an object of ridicule as Palin’s initial media appearances made her look more like a deer caught in the headlights.  Yet despite all the fumbles of the McCain campaign he probably would have one if not for the economic crisis and the blame voters pinned on the GOP for the mess.  This despite the fact the Democrats have controlled congress for two years and many leading Democrats turned a blind eye to the problems because they were receiving campaign donations from these institutions or that they were being run by Democratic sympathizers.  

Now that Obama has won he must get to work quickly. In the next few weeks he will likely select his staff and name his cabinet. By inauguration day he will need to hone his message and add some substance to it. He won’t be able to ride the hope and change message without action for very long.

For conservatives and others who fear a new socialism that remains to be seen. Obama will have large majorities in the House and Senate though not as large as they had hoped so he won’t get everything he wants as long as the Republicans can effectively filibuster in the Senate. With higher taxes, more regulation, and possibly more government control of once private industries the country is certainly headed in that direction.

Voters have purchased the Democratic mansion with a huge mortgage in the sense of entitlements yet to come. The question is can we afford it, and is this new Messiah (as many have compared Obama to) leading us to an Obamageddon?

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