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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. 

Amen, sister.
I can go along with most of that. Except McCain being a good guy -- I don't get the love for him among Democrats, since he's every bit as cavalier about, say, freedom of speech as any book-banning Republican and would institute a draft if he could. I really don't think the fact that he sits uncomfortably in his own party should blind anybody to that kind of stuff.
(In any case, I stand by my creeping dementia conjecture and suspect he'll bow out in 2012.)
McCain's certainly been erratic during the Shrub administration, but I would attribute this to the level of pressure that has been placed on him... eventually he just cracked, and went from maverick to meek party-line senator. I think it's really indicative of the state of the country that his own chosen political party managed to do what three years of torture in Hanoi could not.

I think the Obama victory could be exactly what John McCain needed to get the Straight Talk Express going again, because the pressure to go along with the radical right is now off. He isn't going to run for president again, not at his age, but we really could use the old McCain in the Senate.
This is pretty much the usual line from Dems who want to like McCain, but it doesn't really have much basis in his biography and character. I highly recommend Matt Welch's book McCain: The Myth of a Maverick if you want a sympathetic but unflinchingly critical attempt to understand what the man is really about.
Oh, there's no doubt he's a spoiled, temperamental egomaniac. The point I'm trying to make is that he has really gone out of the way create accord with the spoiled, temperamental egomaniacs on the other side of the aisle, and that's worth something, I think.

if you've ever read R. A. Wilson's Illuminatus trilogy, you might recall how he described the leaders of both the US and communist Russia using the exact same words: "He was a slightly overweight middle aged man who genuinely loved children and dogs."

Power hungriness, greed and superstition are present in all officials in some quantities. But I think most people in our representative republic are genuinely driven by a desire to Do The Right Thing (even if they are horribly misguided in their principles). I think there are very few truly hardboiled evil motherfuckers at work for us, and those are more likely to be spooks, not senators.
And I'd add that incompetence is far more common than evil, even around CIA circles. George Tenet, anyone? ;-P

Most politicians are spoiled, temperamental egomaniacs.

I think it's fair to say we saw two candidates who were actually interested in deciding the election through civil and open debate, even if some of their supporters went over the top (both sides did some of this, though the Republicans more egregiously). Palin's rhetoric was disturbing, but at the very same time the McCain campaign was up in arms over her "going rogue." I don't agree with McCain's politics, but I appreciate that he is willing to discuss his positions in a reasonable and civil manner, and make compromises.

Also, I think McCain is one of the very few actual conservative Republicans out there. On the political compass, most of the rhetoric coming from the GOP resembles fascism more than it does conservatism to me. I can stomach conservatives. I can't stomach fascists.
See, this is exactly the kind of blissfully fact-free image of him that I'm talking about: if you look at what he says and endorses, McCain is closer to being an earnest fascist than George W. Bush is. Certainly there's no disputing that he's more militaristic. Labeling him a "conservative" doesn't provide predictive power: when you try to place him on the tired liberal/conservative axis he looks like he's all over the place, but his actions as a whole make a lot more sense when you understand that his polestar is National Greatness. It's all there in his books and speeches -- he's forever saying stuff like "glory belongs to the act of being constant to something greater than yourself", by which he usually means national service. I could go on. His books are littered with illuminating tidbits like that. Bush brings too much God into government; McCain cuts out the middleman by replacing one with the other.
Sure. My beef is more with his notions about what the right thing is, which I find fairly repulsive for reasons I would have thought West Coast Democrats would identify with. Hence the perplexity: I keep hearing Walter Sobchak in my head saying "at least it's an ethos".