During the last week there has been a lot of discussion about the reasons why Barack Obama won such a broad-based and convincing victory over John McCain.
Most of my Republican friends believe that McCain was doomed from the start due to the collapse of the economy and the overwhelming unpopularity of George Bush. Others believe it was a case of voters choosing a Democrat over a Republican, black over white, young over old, liberal over conservative, left over right, or some combination of the above.
There were certainly voters for whom those criteria were decisive but at the end of the day I believe that a majority of Americans chose smart over stupid.
We have dealt with eight years of stupid and people are tired of it. It is well documented that appointments and decisions within the Bush administration have been made based on loyalty and ideology at times when complicated and nuanced issues required a greater emphasis on ability and competence.
The Bush approach led to predictably disastrous outcomes in Iraq, the response to Katrina, and our current economic crisis. Bush chose to surround himself with people based on personal friendships and their views on abortion and gender issues rather than their professional qualifications and job-specific abilities.
As a result, not only have bad decisions regularly been made but it seems clear that the people in charge were often unaware that problems even existed until it was too late. That would explain the repeated insistence by Bush, McCain, and others that the war in Iraq would be cheap and quick, that we would be greeted as liberators there, and that the economy was fundamentally strong.
Most of the crises we have faced were not entirely of Bush's making, but the "Emperor's New Clothes" culture that has come to be synonymous with the Republican party has made every one of these challenges far worse than it had to be.
That is what this election was all about. Americans were tired of slogans, lies, stupidity and incompetence. With his pick of Sarah Palin as a running mate (can you imagine four more years of NOOK-you-lurr?)and his frequent factual errors and flip-flops on the economy and other key issues, McCain caused voters concern about his judgment while Obama appeared consistent, presidential and, above all, intelligent.
Many McCain apologists have suggested that the meltdown in the stock market over the last month doomed his campaign. That assessment seems far too friendly. McCain was ahead in the polls a month before the election. In fact, it was McCain's awkward and stumbling response to the economic issues combined with the toxicity of the attacks on Obama that were spewed from his campaign and its radio talk show supporters that turned what would have been at worst a narrow defeat into a rout.
There is already a palpable sense of relief that our president-elect has chosen to surround himself with a diverse and accomplished team of advisers to help him address our economic problems. An electorate that has become used to a president who relied on Dick Cheney, Harriet Miers, Alberto Gonzales, and "Brownie" is so ready for a new and smarter approach--one based less on gut feelings, empty slogans and advice directly from God and more on thoughtful rational analysis and expertise.
The challenges our country faces are complex and will require smart and well-reasoned solutions. Joe Sixpack and Joe the Plumber may represent a block of voters, but if someone needed brain surgery they would probably rather have it performed by a trained experienced doctor than by a maverick.
It's time for smart. Stupid has not served us well at all.