The lamest duck
Last week we saw Americans turn out at the polls in unprecedented numbers, thanks in large part to the Obama campaign's brilliantly orchestrated organizing efforts across the country. The Illinois Senator's 53 percent of the popular vote — the largest plurality won by any presidential candidate since George H. W. Bush 20 years ago — translated into a 364-163 Electoral College thrashing of GOP nominee Sen. John McCain (with the fate of Missouri's 11 electoral votes still up in the air). The rest of the Republican ticket did not fare much better: the Democrats gained 19 seats in the House, with six still undecided, and six seats in the Senate, with three still undecided. (About 80,000 absentee ballots in Alaska still have not been counted; in Minnesota the two leading candidates are separated by mere hundreds of votes and a statewide recount has begun; and in Georgia — because neither candidate in the November 4 contest won a majority of the vote, which is required by state law to be elected to the Senate — a runoff election will take place in the next few weeks.)
While the outcomes of those aforementioned Congressional races remain to be seen, the message the electorate conveyed to Washington last Tuesday is very clear: enough is enough. Having seen virtually everything the Bush administration touched over the past two terms become fubar, the average voter decided it was finally time for a change. The country seemed to be begging for this four years ago, but John Kerry was simply not a very good figure to spread the message and garner support for the cause. Barack Obama, in contrast, may well be unparalleled in this regard, having reached the hearts and minds of voters in places the Democrats had considered out of reach for years, including Indiana, North Carolina and Virginia. This was not due merely to Obama's far superior campaign funds or, as McCain repeatedly alleged, to the media being "in the tank" for the Democrat (in fact, a recent news coverage survey by the Project for Excellence in Journalism found no evidence of any such bias), but to the president-elect's uncanny ability to connect with voters in a commonsensical yet substantive way. Some have posited that Obama may become the Democratic Party's Ronald Reagan, literally transforming the political landscape for years to come by securing an enduring majority for his party in Washington and ushering in a collective cognitive reorientation toward policy matters among citizens.
At this point, the Bush administration is widely acknowledged to be among the most atrocious in the history of our republic and, perhaps, next to that of Herbert Hoover, the very worst (while he would probably match President George W. Bush in terms of ineptitude, Hoover could never approach the 43rd president with regard to his unconscionable arrogance). Bush, along with basically everything he represents, is such a stain on the Republican brand that he was all but kept in hiding during much of the campaign season. Of course, this was not successful (voters were not going to simply forget the force which has been draining their nation's lifeblood for nearly a decade), but if they really wanted a shot at the White House this year the GOP should have tried harder to keep voters from being reminded that Bush (and, moreover, Dick Cheney, who publicly endorsed McCain the week before the election) exists. Why either of these men is still allowed to show his face in public is just one of the many unanswered — and probably completely unanswerable — questions about the Bush administration.
Following all of this, the nation is more than ready for its current kakistocratic chapter in history — one of the most disheartening and embarrassing of all time — to mercifully come to an end. Accordingly, we may expect Bush to be the lamest duck of them all. Now, a mere week after the election, Obama's transition team is already among the largest and most comprehensive ever, with a $12 million budget and over 450 staffers in Chicago and Washington, D.C. Because they've seen how badly he and his team handle, well, anything and everything, nobody really wants Bush to take any substantial actions at all, lest he make Obama's task as president that much more difficult. Monday saw a meeting in the Oval Office between Obama and Bush to discuss various policy issues, most notably the economic crisis. The meeting was described as "collegial and cooperative" by John Podesta, the head of Obama's transition effort. There were some reports of a disagreement between the two over the proposal of a free trade agreement with Colombia, but these have not been substantiated. Right now, Bush is probably just trying to do everything in his power to not be remembered as the worst president ever. Given his administration's track record, however, this is a very daunting task.