By BRAD WARTHEN
EDITORIAL PAGE EDITOR
BACK IN JANUARY, I said — on video; you can view it on my blog — that this year’s presidential election presented the American people with a no-lose proposition.
It was the first time in my career when the two candidates we (and I) enthusiastically endorsed for their respective nominations actually made it onto the November ballot. So how could we lose?
Well, there’s one way — the guy we preferred between the two guys we liked didn’t win on Nov. 4. But now that the other guy has won (and did you ever really think he wouldn’t?), I’m putting that setback behind me and looking forward to what happens next, with Barack Obama as my president.
You could say I have no choice, but you’d be wrong. Unfortunately, we have before us a plethora of examples of how to have a perfectly rotten, stinking attitude when your preferred candidate loses, from the “Don’t Blame Me, I Voted for Bush” bumper stickers that appeared on Republican cars before Bill Clinton was even inaugurated to all that nonsense we’ve heard for eight years from Democrats about how the election was “stolen” in 2000.
We always have the option of being mean, petty, poor losers. But not me. Call me audacious, but every day I see fresh cause to be hopeful:
- First, there’s Barack Obama himself. Just as John McCain was the best conceivable Republican to unify the country, Sen. Obama offered himself as the one Democrat most likely to put the bitterness of the Clinton/Bush years behind us. As we wrote when we endorsed him in the S.C. primary, “for him, American unity — transcending party — is a core value in itself.” In a column at the time, I cited “his ambition to be a president for all of us — black and white, male and female, Democrat and Republican.” When a guy like that wins an election, nobody loses.
- Sen. McCain’s gracious (and typical, for him) concession speech left his supporters no room for bitterness, as he wished “Godspeed to the man who was my former opponent and will be my president.”
- Sen. Obama’s promise that same night, in his first flush of victory, “to those Americans whose support I have yet to earn.” He said, “I may not have won your vote tonight, but I hear your voices, I need your help, and I will be your president too.”
- The appointment of Rahm Emanuel as White House chief of staff. He’s been called a partisan attack dog, but he was defended against those who called him that by our own Sen. Lindsey Graham, John McCain’s close friend and ally. Yes, he ran the Democrats’ successful effort to take over Congress in 2006, but he did it by recruiting candidates who appealed to the political center — something his party’s more extreme elements haven’t forgiven him for. In an interview just before he was offered the job, Rep. Emanuel said, “The American people are unbelievably pragmatic. Have confidence in their pragmatism. It’s the operating philosophy of our country.” (The Associated Press says exit polls back that up: “This year 22 percent called themselves liberal, compared with 21 percent in 2004; 44 percent moderate, compared with 45 percent; and 34 percent conservative, same as four years ago.”)
- The image of the Obamas visiting the Bushes at the White House a week after the election. No big deal, you say? It is after the way the current president has been demonized by many Democrats. The presidential election of 1800 proved the miracle of the American system — that power can change hands in a peaceful, civilized manner. That never gets old for me.
- After days in which the more partisan types in the Senate debated just what to do to Joe Lieberman in light of his unpardonable “sin” of supporting Sen. McCain, the president-elect said that of course the senator from Connecticut should still be allowed to caucus with the Democrats.
- The fact that on Monday, Sens. Obama and McCain will sit down at transition headquarters to chart ways to move forward together. “It’s well known that they share an important belief that Americans want and deserve a more effective and efficient government,” said an Obama spokeswoman Friday, adding that the two men “will discuss ways to work together to make that a reality.” They will be joined by Sen. Graham and Rep. Emanuel.
You’ll notice a certain theme in my points, and just in case I haven’t hit you over the head with it hard enough, I’ll say it again: I draw my hope from signs that this country is ready to move beyond the stupid, pointless, destructive polarization that has been thrust upon us by the two dominant political parties, their attendant Beltway interest groups, the blogosphere and the mindless yammering of 24/7 shouting-head cable TV “news.”
You might say that mere nonpartisanship — or bipartisanship, or post-partisanship (or my favorite, UnPartisanship) — is not enough by itself. That’s true. But without it, there’s no hope. Fortunately, I see plenty of cause to believe we’re about to see something new, and better.
Join me in hoping at thestate.com/bradsblog/.