Let’s be clear about the nature and meaning of the mandate we’re going to be hearing so much about: President-elect Barack Obama has a clear mandate to end the Iraq war as expeditiously as possible. His campaign was energized by and differentiated from Hillary Clinton’s by his emphasis on correcting that horrific mistake. Hillary equivocated, refused to recant her vote for war, and coyly suggested that we might withdraw only as far as Kurdistan. Obama, on the other hand, pledged to get us out in a year, albeit adding weasel words about "residual" forces guarding our bigger-than-the-Vatican ambassadorial compound. He gained his initial momentum by grabbing on to this issue and holding on for dear life, as the Clintons self-destructed and the economy did, too. Obama arrived at this moment not only on the strength of his pledge to end the present war, but also the implicit promise to refrain from involving us in any further hostilities.
The defeat of the GOP was easily predicted: I’ve been doing it for years, here, for example, and here. This election was a referendum on John McCain’s brand of enthusiastic interventionism and his volcanically warlike temperament, and it was a stunning repudiation of both. Iraq, Iran, the wilds of the Caucasus — what was distinctive about the McCainiac foreign policy was the wide range of his potential targets. Al-Qaeda often seemed to take second or even third place on his enemies list, with the Iranians and the Russians taking first and second respectively.
Here was a campaign run by the hardest of the hardcore neocons, and the weight of this bone-crushing defeat will settle heavily on their shoulders. Saddled with the neocons’ war and the central theme of the McCain campaign — "victory" in Iraq and intervention around the world — Republicans all across the nation have been dragged down to defeat: the neocons have proven a heavier albatross than the party can bear. What we may be witnessing is the end of the GOP as an effective political force, at least on a national level.
Justin Raimondo [send him mail] is editorial director of Antiwar.com and is the author of An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard and Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement.