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Our President Elect, and My Hopes for a Cheerful Conservatism

November 4th, 2008 | 2 min read

By Matthew Lee Anderson

Tonight, the American people spoke and elected Barack Obama as their–as our–President.  It is a historic decision, and one that will doubtlessly be scrutinized relentlessly.  Barack Obama has run a masterful campaign–perhaps one of the most effective campaigns in history–and the prevailing winds that favored his election do not detract from the momentousness of his win.  My congratulations to our newly elected President, Barack Obama.

(Update:  for a roundup of reactions, see the Confabulum over at Culture11.  I’ll have more tomorrow.)

There are questions as to what this election means, of course.  The historic nature of this election is one thing:  the political implications are quite another.  Does this represent a shift away from the “center-right” basis of America?  Will the Obama Presidency represent a revival of a robust Democratic ideology, or will Obama take the road to popularity and avoid getting his hands dirty–much as Bill Clinton did while he was in office?  What will conservatives rally around to win back seats, as Democrats rallied around opposing the Iraq War after 2004?

Such questions will be answered in future weeks and months.  For conservatives now, disappointment is inevitable.  At this critical juncture, conservatives had hoped for so much more.  The “promised land,” however, has been denied.  It is our turn to get used to the wilderness.

The choice before us is stark:  we, like the children of Israel, can harden our hearts and grumble.  We can seize on the anger that comes from losing and use it to propel our efforts.  We can allow the policies of Barack Obama to force us to shape ours defensively.  

This is, dare I say, the path that Democrats chose to travel the last 8 years.  Conservatives, I hope, will choose otherwise.  There is a way of being in the wilderness that will make conservatives stronger, not only for 2010 and 2012, but for long thereafter.  On this election evening, though results have not gone as I hoped, I remain cheerful.  Today is a good day:  America has elected its first African American President. Conservative principles are still true, and so will not be long out of favor.  The Republican party is disorganized and divided, but so was the Democratic party four short years ago. 

The next four years, I hope cheerful conservatism prevails.  If I have anything to do with it, it will.  But for now, congratulations to our next President of the United States.

Matthew Lee Anderson

Matthew Lee Anderson is an Associate Professor of Ethics and Theology in Baylor University's Honors College. He has a D.Phil. in Christian Ethics from Oxford University, and is a Perpetual Member of Biola University's Torrey Honors College. In 2005, he founded Mere Orthodoxy.