In the famed 1972 political film, The Candidate, Robert Redford plays a naive California lawyer who, at the suggestion and advice of an election specialist, becomes the Democratic frontrunner for Senator in California. While the whole movie is very good, it all comes together at the very end, when a surprised and distraught Redford who, after winning the Senate seat, asks his campaign manager in the midst of screaming journalists, “what do we do now?” The campaign manager does not hear him, and Redford is left speechless and puzzled while heckling reporters surround him. The New York Times’s A.O. Scott has a very good comparison of this movie and modern American politics, but for me the last line sums up what everyone’s thinking — what do we do now? For each party that participated in this campaign, there is a different answer for that one, oh-so-important question:
Barack Obama: For the President-elect, these next few days and weeks will play out like a Jewish wedding: Election Day was like the actually ceremony, and Election night was the consummation. Right now is his sheva brachos, or seven blessings, the period of seven days after a wedding filled with lots of partying and more food than you can possibly imagine. But, after the sheva brachos, the not-so-glamorous parts of marriage begin to seep in. You need a better job, a better house; do you want kids, do you not want kids; does your spouse need to lose weight or do you; and, of course, there’s that issue of finding some “me” time. Similarly, Obama will need to start getting his act together after the partying is all done. He’s already started by inviting Illinois Congressman Rahm Emanuel (brother of superagent Ari Emanuel, the inspiration for Entourage’s Ari Gold) to be his Chief of Staff, but other issues such as picking a Cabinet still loom. Also, Obama will need to figure out how to implant a lot of the “change” policies he’s been touting for the past two years. With the Democrats possibly getting sixty Senate seats this election and at least 254 in the House, this probably won’t be a huge issue, but still one that needs addressing. And of course, the President-elect will need to tend to the two most pressing issues for the U.S. currently: the economy and Iraq. Healthcare and more general foreign policy (three cheers for America being popular in the world again!) are also highly important. But, at least for now, enjoy your parties, Barack, because these next few weeks will require your utmost focus and attention.
Congress: As I mentioned before, not only did the Dems win the presidency in a landslide, they also increased their majorities in both houses of Congress. What does this mean? Well, in addition to being able to speedily pass Obama’s proposed legislation (which ranges from taxes to Iraq to healthcare), the new Congress may be able to firmly tackle some important issues like gay marriage and economic stimulus policies. But before they get too ahead of themselves, Congress will need to remember that the last time the Democrats won Congress and the presidency, in 1992, it was promptly taken away from them in 1994, when Newt Gingrich and his “Contract with America” Republicans took control of both houses, which they held until 2006. While the factors then and now are very different, the Democratic Congress will need to remember to avoid being too partisan and hostile to the GOP, as political unity after a close election is key to preserving political stability.
The Media: “The election is over…so how the hell do we make money?” Good question. Well, for one thing, now that Obama’s President-elect, he’ll be ripe for media (and talk show) scrutiny about past voting history, policies, and his personal life (but not any of that Bill Ayers bullshit). Still, NBC can kiss goodbye their Tina Fey/Sarah Palin election viewers, which is a shame, but not an excuse for SNL to go back to sucking royally. My advice to the media: keep digging for the truth, in the election and Obama’s past, even if it no longer matters in terms of voting, because as American citizens we have the right to know the whole truth and nothing but the truth about our leaders, even if they’re great ones (just ask Bill Clinton…). Oh, and talk/comedy shows, don’t stop being funny. Please. Just because you lose Dubya and Caribou Barbey doesn’t give you an excuse to stop coming up with good material. Remember, Biden’s a friggin’ gaffe machine and Obama’s, well, got those big ears.
We, the People of the United States of America: Before I say anything, I would like to show you this xkcd comic, which sums up what I was going to say pretty well:
Yeah, basically what this (and I also) is saying is “what the hell are we going to do without a constant stream of election news?” Well, Slate has an article listing things to do online to ward off post-election boredom, which includes such classics like watching online videos and playing addicting flash games. Also, sites like HuffPo and The Daily Beast aren’t just going to shut down; they’ll still be producing lots of cool, non-election content. And hello, just because this election is over doesn’t mean that politics stops existing. There’s still important issues out there, like gay marriage and abortion rights, that need to be tackled. Plus, the economy is still in the toilet, we’re still in Iraq, and Putin will need to be watched by more than just Little Miss Sarah’s Alaskan brigade. And hey, football season is underway, and the Giants are beasting, so if you need to follow, root for, and track something relentlessly, that’s it. The point is, there’s still loads to do, even if compulsively watching FiveThirtyEight.com isn’t one of them. As a people and a nation, we’ve accomplished so much these past two years it makes no sense just to take all of that grassroots organization and throw it down the toilet.
So, to answer Senator McKay’s question, there is a lot to do now, whether you’re President Obama or, yes, Joe the Plumber. So, instead of standing there with a confused look in your face, get out there and do something for this big, crazy world we live in!