So Barack Obama is the new president. Some people are really happy, some scared, some angry. What does it mean for the future? Here are some of my thoughts on what this event might mean in the next few years.
(For the record, I did well with my predictions this time. On January 3 I predicted that Obama and probably McCain would be the candidates, and that Obama would win. Drury must be rubbing off on me. :-) Those of you who have found my recent ventures into politics painful will be happy to know that I'll largely be taking my thoughts on those issues off this air and back to my lesser known non-biblioblog.
1. This signals something really big in American race relations. For African-Americans, it ushers an age where equality will surely now be something more than just talk. It has often just been talk.
Michelle Obama got flack for saying that for the first time she was proud of her country. But I understood what she was saying. There is much that we should rightly be ashamed of as a nation when it comes to the way African-Americans have been treated in the past. Those older people who are foolishly afraid of racial payback are thereby interestingly admitting the injustices of the past.
On the other side, this will do something to the latent racism that came out in the course of the election. Obama will give them nothing to fear. His even handedness will forever change the issue. To see Jesse Jackson and Oprah crying is to realize how good a thing this is. Just perhaps, Obama will prove to be a "peace child" in American race relations, the dawning of a new era in this respect.
2. Whatever you think of Obama's politics, we have instantaneously regained great honor in the world. You may think they are wrong, but the world will take this vote as a return to sanity in the U.S., a return to honor. Bush has seemed to the world a cowboy who liked to shoot his gun off any which way. The world found him very scary in the way you act carefully around a 300 pound bully who hasn't been taking his meds.
Bush talked a lot about American ideals, but to the world he seemed simply to reinforce the idea that might makes right. Whatever you think of Obama's ideas, the world over night has become more open to listening to the U.S. again. Peace has a much greater chance in the world than it did 24 hours ago. It is possible once again for the world to think of us as its friend.
3. I predict that the Republican party will redefine itself. Palin may run next election, but she will be eliminated early--very early. The days in which the Dobson half of evangelicalism hold power in the Republican party are over, I predict. An increasing number of evangelicals will now vote Democrat following the lead of Jim Wallis and Brian McLaren. Evangelicals from this point out will no longer line up neatly to one party. From now on the evangelical vote will be split.
The Republican party these last 8 years has split into several very different factions--the economic conservatives, the religious conservatives, and the moderates. The Republicans lost this election because the moderates voted for Obama. Ironically, McCain got the nomination precisely because he was a moderate, much to the chagrin of the economic and religious conservatives in the party. Palin, although good for the short term game, may have ended up causing McCain the election.
The economic conservatives in the party feel like the party has pandered to ignorance. They are smart and more than clever enough to take back control of the party. They have played nice nice with religious conservatives when they thought they could help them get elected. And they have done so without having to change anything--only talk about issues like abortion. They're about to take control (don't be looking for Huckabee to go far in the next election either).
3. Evangelicals will reassess their strategy. The "shove God's law down their throat" approach has not won any converts and has generally failed. Ironically, the gay marriage amendment in California has allowed full civil rights for gay partners to the full extent of the law in its quest to ban calling such unions a "marriage." Although I doubt they feel this way, it is probably more a concrete success for the gay community of California than for those who were using it to vent on something they ultimately have no control over.
Evangelicals have thus got all they will ever get politically, apart from winning over hearts and minds to their positions. This is it. So that means a strategy change. I personally suggest they might try the Christian approach for a change--the "influence" approach that leads by example and persuasion rather than by force. The Crusades/hack them to pieces approach hasn't worked really well.
4. We are about to see some changes. I'm guessing we'll like some and hate others. Our grandchildren may unknowingly like some of them more than we will. I think good things are going to happen with the American health care system. I think in the next 8 years we're going to see social security, Medicare, and Medicade get fixed. I think we're about to see a resurgence of science and the arts and real improvement to the American education system.
I predict that history will consider the last 8 years a temporary aberration in a the history of a great nation. 9-11 and the economic crisis will take their place as a dark challenge to which the nation arose. But what came after will be all the better for it. That's at least what I'm predicting. In four years I'll check my report card.