Aside from the obvious (we actually have this awesome guy for our president? You mean we get to keep
him?), there's a couple things I'm happy about:
- The (possible?) return of John McCain, senior Senator from Arizona. The campaign was messy and ugly at the end, and it's easy to forget McCain's track record. He has consistently demonstrated himself willing to build consensus with Democratic colleagues. As a resident of CA, immigration reform is a topic dear to my heart, and he has shown real leadership in that regard. I hope to see a reappearance of the pro-choice Mac, now that he is no longer compelled to pander at the fringy, extremist christianist Republican "base." He was a good guy, and if he had won the Republican party's nomination in 2000, it's quite possible I would have voted for him then. I think he's genuinely embarrassed by the nastiness spewed in his name. At the end of the day, John McCain is as good a public servant as anyone else in the Senate, and better than many. I hope we get him back intact.
- The fact that, though a few more seats were gained, the Democratic party does NOT hold a supermajority in the Senate. In 2006, the Democratic party enjoyed healthy gains, largely in response to public outrage at the war in Iraq and other malfeasances of the incumbent administration. Instead of checking executive power, the Democratic congress has stood by silently while spying telcoms were granted immunity from prosecution, more "emergency funding" has been approved for the Iraq war, and our government at large has dodged culpability for disgusting human rights violations. The Democrats in the "do nothing" congress have not yet demonstrated that they are capable of pulling up their Big Boy Pants and doing real legislative work. In the event of a supermajority, I could easily forsee an abuse of privilege and a failure to vet new policy carefully.
Barack Obama has the potential to cultivate consensus in a very divided nation. He's at his best when he appeals to our reason. He's cool, level-headed, and gives no quarter to knee-jerk freak-outs or witch hunts. Also, he's a good listener as opposed to an ideologue. I think the development of new policy will be facilitated by honest and respectful debate in years to come, which is why I'm glad the deck hasn't been stacked with 60 Democratic yes-men. I think the President-Elect is at his best when he is called to reflect upon, and make an argument for, his beliefs. Certainly, there are more opportunities to win support when a conservative minority feels as though they are being truly heard, as opposed to drowned out.
That's why I feel so optimistic right now. There are several areas where I simply do not agree with Barack Obama (FISA, gay marriage and ethanol funding, for example). But unlike any other politician in my lifetime, I think this guy actually makes a point of listening to people he disagrees with.
Also, recall: one of the reasons we saw a surplus at the end of the Clinton administration is because the new Republican congressional majority put the kabosh on a lot of spending. Checks and balances people. They're part of what makes us such a special fucking snowflake.