The morning after
his narrow electoral loss to George W. Bush in 2004, John Kerry
conceded the election in a very gracious concession speech.
"In an American
election, there are no losers," Kerry told supporters assembled in
Boston's Faneuil Hall, "because whether or not our candidates are
successful, the next morning we all wake up as Americans. That is the
greatest privilege and most remarkable good fortune that can come to us
What was true then is true today.
reject John McCain last Tuesday. They didn't vote against anybody.
Rather, they voted for somebody. They voted for an inspirational figure
who appealed to their best hopes and promised them better tomorrows.
The truth of the
matter is that John McCain faced an uphill battle from the very
beginning. The party of a sitting president generally gets blamed for a
bad economy, and McCain had the Herculean task of convincing voters to
put another Republican in office during a time of great economic
turmoil. Beating the economy and Barack Obama were just too
much for even a great man like John McCain to achieve. And make no
mistake, John McCain is a great man, one of the finest to have ever
served this country.
I watched the
election from an underground bar on the campus of the London School of
Economics. Hundreds of students gathered in the early hours of
Wednesday morning to see who Americans would choose. These students
were overwhelmingly supportive of Obama, so much so that, to their
discredit, they booed every time John McCain picked up a state. But at
4 a.m. London time, when CNN declared Barack Obama the winner,
something special happened. After the cheering ended, the exultant
onlookers began chanting: "USA, USA, USA."
Now, I don't know
how many Americans were in the crowd, but there is no question that a
good proportion of those chanting USA were foreigners. It was a
remarkable sight and I couldn't help but smile.
Barack Obama's election as president means something very important. It
proves that any child, no matter their background or ethnic origin, can
achieve their dreams in America. It proves that America remains that
great land of opportunity that has drawn and continues to draw
immigrants from around the world. For a moment, there is nothing wrong
with ideological opponents of Obama taking in, and even appreciating,
the history that was made on Tuesday. I know I did.
In the wake of
last Tuesday's electoral defeat, the Republican Party will have to find
a new leader to rally behind. If they have any shot at taking on Barack
Obama in 2012, they will have to nominate a candidate who is energetic,
relatively young, smart, exciting and, just as importantly, a very able
communicator. Republicans cannot get their ideas across to the American
people if they do not have a leader who can speak effectively and
vice-presidential nominee, Sarah Palin will likely leverage her
newfound fame into a 2012 presidential run. She is, however, not the
leader the Republican Party needs. Besides failing to show a strong
grasp of the foreign policy challenges that confront America, she did
not demonstrate the gravitas that one expects from a president. If
Republicans go this route and nominate Palin, it will mean certain
defeat in 2012.
Few doubt that
former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney is eyeing the opportunity to
run again in 2012. Romney has many positives, most importantly his
tremendous record in the private sector. Yet, in 2008, Romney tried to
be all things to all segments of the conservative base. By choosing
this route, he came across as inauthentic. If he changes course and
runs in 2012 as the businessman candidate that he is, he may well have
a shot to win the Republican nomination.
Governor Mike Huckabee must also be seen as among the top contenders
for the Republican nomination in 2012. Huckabee is a fantastic
communicator and a likeable person, but his economic populism makes him
a poor choice to lead the party.
Novak reported last week that former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich
has been mentioned by party leaders as a 2012 contender. There is no
one in the Republican Party who has more ideas than Newt. He is a
brilliant man, a great communicator, and would likely make a fine
president. Unfortunately, he has a lot of personal baggage that may be
hard to overcome.
There is no
potential 2012 presidential hopeful more interesting than Louisiana
Governor Bobby Jindal. At 37, Jindal is the youngest governor in the
country. Though young, his resume is dazzling. A graduate of Brown
University, Jindal studied at Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar. He turned
down acceptances to Yale Law School and Harvard Medical School to go
Jindal worked briefly at the highly respected consulting firm McKinsey
& Company. At just 24 years of age, Jindal was appointed Secretary
of Louisiana's Department of Health and Hospitals. He has also served
as an assistant secretary in the Health and Human Services department
and as a U.S. Congressman.
On top of all
this, Jindal is an outstanding communicator and his story is one
Americans will embrace because it testifies to the American dream. The
son of Indian immigrants, Jindal very well may be president one day,
and that day just may well be in January 2013.
There will be
other candidates who will certainly throw their hat into the ring in
the coming years. But if you want to know the future of the Republican
Party it might be smart to watch closely what is going on in Baton