Inside the Capitol

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

11-7 Expect the Unexpected

Syndicated Columnist

SANTA FE -- Moments after Barack Obama was declared to be our next president, at 9 p.m. Tuesday, all power in my house went out.
As I listened for explosions outside, I wondered about my frequent predictions that the sun would come up tomorrow regardless of who won the presidency.
Maybe my friends, who warned that Obama's election would mean the end of the world as we know it, were correct. Seconds later, as suddenly as they had gone off, the lights flashed back on.
It gave me pause to reflect on the other unexpected experiences of the past few weeks. We had been on a month-long cruise tour of ancient and religious sites of the Middle East.
A little over halfway through the voyage, my wife Jeanette fell and broke her femur just below the hip. We were hustled off the ship to an Abu Dhabi hospital where we spent the next 17 days getting Jeanette's leg repaired and in good enough condition for a 30-hour journey home.
It was a cultural shock such as neither of us had ever experienced. And, would you believe it, the attending physician in the emergency room was Dr. Hussein. More on those adventures and insights in later columns.
Suffice it to say, we have come to expect the unexpected. And that is the position most Americans have been in for the past year. A year ago, no one expected a skinny, black kid with a funny name to have a chance at beating the presumed Democratic presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton.
A year ago John McCain had been counted out of the GOP presidential race and few outside Alaska had ever heard of Sarah Palin. That included John McCain.
Polls ranged all the way from a slight lead for McCain to a big lead for Obama. But analysts, including myself, noted Obama's underperformance inside the voting booth in those states having primary elections, as opposed to caucuses.
We figured Obama would need a big lead in the polls in order to pull off a narrow victory on election day. But that's not what happened. Obama won by a spread bigger than any of the polls had predicted. And his coattails were very long, extending through Congress down to state legislatures.
What does that mean for the future? We don't know that either. President-elect Obama is mostly an unknown quantity. Supporters can only hope he will be the kind of change they want. Many McCain supporters likely felt the same way, hoping that once he got in office he might surprise his party by becoming the McCain of the 2000 GOP primary.
Congress could be a surprise too. With solid majorities and a block of new members in each house, changes could be in store for Democrat leaders and policy. . The same is true for the New Mexico Legislature where new Democrats have been added in both houses.
And what of Gov. Bill Richardson? Will he stay or take a post in the Obama administration? If he stays, will the more Democratic House and Senate join with the Governor to push through legislation that hasn't passed before?
If he goes, where will it be? Who will Lt. Gov. Diane Denish appoint as a lieutenant governor? And what will her style of governing be? Will it be a big shift from the Bill Richardson style?
And what of the Republican Party in New Mexico? Some say it is dead and must be resurrected in a different form, without the present cliques that divide it. New faces are needed with new ideas. It will be a big job, but they'll be back.
Even a bigger job is in store for Democrats, who must deliver on their campaign promises. The same voters who threw Republicans out will expect great things from the Democrats they elected.
If they don't get them, Republicans will be back very soon.
FRI, 11-07-08

JAY MILLER, 3 La Tusa, Santa Fe, NM 87505
(ph) 982-2723, (fax) 984-0982, (e-mail)



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