This election was exhausting. The campaigns were passionate in a time when deep fears griped each of us. Even George Bush supporters believe he was treated unfairly by world events beyond his control – but those events happened to all of us. All of us, Americans and our fellow earthly citizens, have been deeply impacted by the past eight years. It makes no difference if Bush was the cause or merely the victim. Each of us have lived through some of the most traumatic events in history. Each of us took the outcome of this election personally.
This election process began almost two years ago. Hillary Clinton gained the starting position through the strength of her notoriety – a former First Lady who has demonstrated her tremendous skills as a United States Senator. Senator John McCain was an early favorite with the Republican but suffered poor campaign management, lost most of his money, shifted gears with a new staff, and ultimately prevailed as the Party Nominee. Senator Barack Obama was the unknown – a recent entrant on the national stage.
Much will be written and analyzed about this process – but simple analysis suggests Hillary Clinton took too much for granted. She was blindsided by Obama’s superior organization, superior fund raising, and superior oratory. By the time Senator Clinton recognized Obama’s strength he had gained the upper hand – it was too late for Clinton.
This writer wrote last January that we believed Senator McCain had won the Republican nomination because he had not insulted the ‘thinking conservatives’ of the Party. McCain had run an intelligent campaign based on his independent notoriety. The talking heads of the conservative media went ballistic – assaulting the moderate McCain. This was to be the ultimate downfall of McCain.
Senator McCain was astute enough to recognize Obama’s message of change was resonating with the populace. And there was no better Republican to speak to that subject than Senator McCain – the maverick of the Party. Senator McCain made a brilliant move in declaring himself the real agent of change – and he had the credentials to demonstrate that he was not a Party lackey. John McCain had found his campaign voice.
Passionate conservatives rallied around, feeling the hope of a great message.
But the LImbaughs and Hannity’s persisted in their degradation of their Party standard-bearer. Senator McCain acquiesced to the cultural right wing. his first major blunder. He surrendered his credentials as an independent Republican. When McCain should have been working on attracting the growing base of independents he swerved to the right. He chose Alaska Governor Sarah Palin – and as he is proud to say – energized the base. But this is a base of people who deny science, who deny global climate change, who deny environmental controls, who deny any government regulations, who believe foreign policy is limited to only what can be seen from the shore of Alaska, who believe this country should be a Christian Theocracy. The intellectual, thoughtful, fiscal conservatives were alienated in favor of Rush Limbaugh and Shawn Hannity.
The thinking Democrats were tremendously offended and their passion was stirred.
As the McCain campaign struggled through the horrendous crash of Wall Street McCain watched his poll numbers decline. Again, McCain made two major tactical mistakes. First, McCain’s attempt at acting Presidential with decisiveness led him to make rash decisions which ultimately made him look erratic. Second, McCain adopted the Karl Rove swift-boat mentality of slash and burn. This worked pretty well in 2000 when the world was reasonably calm – but 2008 called for much more than smear campaigns. Palin was assigned the attack talking points and gladly read from her cue cards – further affirming her lack of credentials.
Pro Palin Republicans attacked Katie Couric as an unfair interviewer. Pro Obama Democrats screamed of Palin’s incompetence. The independents in the middle were feeling the heat. Senator Obama, before the economic collapse, remained faithful to a message of change. Obama was losing ground – and it is difficult to say what he might have done without the Wall Street disaster. But there it was, the world is not on hold during these elections. None of us can know what was going on in Obama’ s head – but on the surface he appeared calm and composed. Some said he appeared more Presidential than the erratic McCain.
Because of the 24 hour cable news channels and the internet – any move, gesture, or statement by the candidates is magnified many times over. McCain may have felt completely in control – but he appeared to be out of control. Obama, on the other hand, appeared to be thoughtful.
The dread of a dismal economic future was felt around the world and passions flared.
Palin’s continuous assault on Obama around obscure associations were also magnified by 24 hour electronic scrutiny. The passionate right wing bought every suggestion Palin made and went wild with the venom of fear. The Democrats responded in kind – slamming the ‘swift-boat, Rovian politics.’
Passions flared further, the country was becoming more divided.
The magnitude of passion can be measured by the voter turnout, by the long lines at voting precincts, by the dedication of armies of volunteers. More votes were cast than at any time in history. More money was raised, more volunteers worked, more intense scrutiny was given to every word spoken by any of the four national candidates. The election process had become deeply personal to most Americans. Very few people had mild views.
The polls indicated that in the last month of the process all but about six to eight percent of the population was firmly in one camp or another. Fear of the outcome was driving the passion of candidate choice.
It was a civil war. Threats were made. But no shots were fired. This was a civil war sanctioned by the United States Constitution. The change of leadership would happen with no blood being shed. The process worked. The Founding Fathers have again been vindicated. The beauty of America has been affirmed again.
But the passions remain. Deep passion does not dissolve by merely counting the votes. The media – both left, right, and mainstream own some of the distortion of passion. The media, of which this on-line magazine finds itself, jumped on the passionate bandwagon. Obscure sound bites were magnified, and the sound bites proliferated. The internet granted voice to more of the population than has ever been witnessed. Even small magazines like this, The Fireside Post, reached over 40,000 people a month. The Huffington Post saw numbers reaching four and a half million a month. The Drudge Report was seeing traffic of about two million a month.
Even small magazines like The Fireside saw venomous comments by readers. We watched readers challenges other readers. We watched the discourse of passionate position. The election has been over for twenty-four hours, but the passions remain. We continue to see deep anger in our comments section. We continue to see readers challenging each other with emotional arguments – often lacking in substance other than emotion. We cannot discount the anger.
We were struck that some people were thoughtful, but we could see their anger separating them from their reason. Some people wrote exact quotes from Party literature as if the thoughts were their own. Name calling became a substitute for rational discourse. Some readers said they would never visit this site again, on several posts and on several different days.
We view these comments as an overall positive. When people wrote comments, even nasty comments, they bought in to the process. They owned a piece of the action. They became invested in the outcome. We felt this ourselves.
This election became personal.