Sunday, November 2, 2008

History's 'problem'

One difficulty in studying history is that the further away in time an event occurs, the more easily the outcome of that event can be attributed to overarching narratives and trends, or put another way, credit can be deflected away from the people who took part in that event -- oh, it was inevitable, those historical characters were simply in the right place at the right time.

I think it would be a serious error for political historians to look on the 2008 campaign and assume that Obama won simply because things were bad for Republicans. This is a theme I've written about before, largely in the debate over whether a generic Democrat would be doing better or worse than Obama.

First, the guy is black and has the middle name of Hussein -- Obama had a much smaller margin of error in this campaign than probably any previous candidate (I dunno, maybe Kennedy and the Catholic thing was of a similar scale). Second, he has built -- or at least had the foresight to hire people who built -- an incredible, nation-wide organization. Third, Obama has shown a tremendous amount of long-term vision and patience. He had a plan during the primaries and didn't deviate from it when things looked bad, nor did he deviate from his many-states strategy when McCain rallied during the Palin/RNC time. Other candidates -- say, a generic Dem like Chris Dodd -- might certainly have panicked and pulled all resources out of Colorado, Virginia, North Carolina, etc. and invested entirely in PA, OH, and FL. Obama has greatly expanded the electoral map for the Democrats by patiently building a network all over the country.

In short, Obama made some excellent choices along the way, and I think it would be a mistake to view this as an election that the Republicans lost rather than one Obama won.

Polls close in Virgina in 48 hours....