TO BE a conservative in Massachusetts is to know disappointment, never more so than on Election Day, when candidates and causes of the right rarely stand a chance. Waiting in line at my Brookline polling place yesterday, I was under no illusion that my vote would change the outcome: Barney Frank would be re-elected to the US House, John Kerry would go back to the Senate, and Massachusetts would vote decisively for Barack Obama. To say nothing of the rest of the nation poised to elect the most lopsidedly liberal government in years.
But why succumb to gloom? Even for a red voter in the bluest of states, Election 2008 has its consolations:
The Clintons really won't be going back to the White House.
We haven't seen the last of Sarah Palin, who demonstrated genuine star power as she withstood with aplomb and good humor a vicious assault from the left.
Government financing of political campaigns, always a dreadful idea, is dead. Yes, Obama egregiously broke his solemn promise to accept public financing and its attendant spending limits. But having witnessed Obama's astonishing financial blowout -- he raised well over $600 million, crushing his rival in the money war and therefore in advertising and field organization -- no future candidate will agree to be shackled by those limits.
A turn in the wilderness will do Republicans good. During the GOP's years in power, the one-time party of fiscal sobriety and limited government turned into a gang of reckless spenders and government aggrandizers. If a few years in exile can lead Republicans back to their conservative, Reaganite roots, yesterday's losses will not have been in vain.
But the most lustrous silver lining of all, even for disappointed Republicans, is the racial one. As a politician and policymaker, Obama distresses me; his extreme liberalism is decidedly not what the nation needs in its president. But as a symbol -- a son of Africa elected to lead a majority-white nation that once enslaved Africans and treated their descendants with great cruelty -- Obama's rise makes me proud of my country. The anthem of the Civil Rights Movement was "We Shall Overcome." Impossible as it might have seemed scant decades ago, we have.
(Jeff Jacoby is a columnist for The Boston Globe.)