Where Do We Go Now?

The night is over, the jubilation is still there, but reality is intruding, and it’s time to “get to work” as it were. I think both the victory and the unbelievable reception of it (more on that later) make clear that there really is an overwhelming desire to change the country, but I’m not sure any of us really fully know yet what that means. There will be lots of talk about mandates in the next few days, and the right will try to downplay the frames of the coming policy debate, but Democrats shouldn’t be distracted by these artificial constructs. Whether or not there’s a specific mandate in the votes or not, Democrats campaigned on withdrawing from Iraq, rebuilding our global relationships, doing something serious about climate change and energy, fixing our healthcare system, etc., and they ought to get as much of that done as possible. If they work out well, voters will respond in kind.

There’s also the question of who Obama will surround himself with, both as officials and advisers, and how their political makeup will affect the new administration. It seems increasingly likely that Robert Gates will remain on for some time at Defense to manage the end to the Iraq entanglement, and I think that’s a good thing. Gates has great rapport with the military commanders, as well as bringing a certain level of bipartisnaship to the draw down, and both of those things are very important. I think you’re going to get a Democrat at State, but other positions we don’t always think so much about. Obviously the Treasury Department will be of highest import, and whoever the new leader there is, I suspect it will be someone with a deep knowledge of our financial system. The new Attorney General is going to have to be someone witha deep working knowledge of the Justice Department, because the Bush administration has truly lefta clusterfuck there that we’re going to be hurt by for years to come. And Health and Human Services will become incredibly important, assumng that healthcare reform will be early on the agenda, and the point man there is goingto have to be someone with a deep knowledge and rapport in the Senate (I’m thinking Daschle).

But if nothing else, we finally have serious government again. We have an executive branch that represents the reality based community. We have fully rejected “the politics of Rove,” and we may even have conquered that oldest of problems in our culture. Can any one administration do much more than that?

Yes. We. Can.