|I'm not making this up. Here's the key exchange:
FOX: If [Obama] wins tonight, what do you expect to happen Wednesday Thursday Friday from a President-elect Obama?
MCCASKILL: He will surprise America how quickly he will try to reach out to the millions of people who are voting for John McCain today - and the milions of people who have questions about his leadership. He'll want to reassure them, and he'll want to find Republicans to work with him in his cabinet.
FOX: You don't predict it's going to be "we have a mandate, were going to govern from the left" you think its going to be more of a bipartisan lets-sort of heal and bring everbody together?
MCCASKILL: He will pleasantly surprise everyone who votes for John McCain today.
Ummm...what about the millions of people who, ya know, voted for Obama? Don't we count for something? I mean McCaskill's statement (which, by the way, I don't ascribe to Obama himself) is really not encouraging for the millions of voters who are supporting Obama because he's a self-described progressive Democrat. And while McCaskill's message is shrouded in the argot of conciliation, it's not merely a conciliatory statement - it's a partisan and ideological one.
McCaskill is channeling the "Center-Right Nation" meme we've been seeing through the whole media in the lead up to this election. Again, no matter how big Obama may win in this ideologically polarized race, no matter how many polls show America is a fundamentally progressive nation on major issues, we are told that the only Responsible and Serious thing to do is for a President Obama to govern as a mainstream corporate Republican.
What this analysis fails to consider - or deliberately ignores - is that the entire "center" has shifted. So while I agree with folks like Salon's Joan Walsh that there's no conceptual problem with an Obama presidency being populated by "centrists," there is a conceptual problem if those "centrists" aren't actually in the center of American public opinion. That is, if these "centrists" are actually corporatists whose free market fundamentalism on economic issues is well to the right of public opinion.
Sure, Democrats seem poised to make gains in "red" states and "red" districts. But as Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) displayed so well in his silly and stupid declaration about the Patriot Act in 2006 - many of these "red" states and "red" districts are incredibly progressive in supporting strong privacy/civil liberties protections and opposing corporate-written trade policies championed by so-called "centrist" Democrats and Republicans alike. Come on out here to the traditionally "red" swaths of Colorado or Montana, and try running for office bragging about NAFTA or the Patriot Act - ie. D.C.'s definition of "centrism" - and you better get ready to get crushed at the polls.
I would say I was surprised that McCaskill decided to use her role as Democrats' election-day spokesperson to insist that a Democratic win will prioritize the very Republican governance that has become so unpopular. But then, I've been around this crap for too long to be surprised.
It seems no matter how hated George W. Bush and the Republican Party are in the country at large, no matter how an election may pivot on that hatred, the political Establishment of both parties is ideologically loyal to conservative corporatism. Indeed, that is the power of money - the power of the hostile takeover, if you will. And that means the uprising that this election season has stoked will need to become all the more intense starting tomorrow if we are to make sure a (hopefully) President-elect Obama doesn't spend the first days after the election constructing another conservative Presidency - only this time, building it with bricks and mortar marked "progressive." I don't think Obama himself actually wants to do this, but we see how much pressure is already being put on him. We're going to have to help him fight back.