Since I mentioned this last night, I thought it my responsibility to follow up. There was some confusion whether McCain shook hands with Obama at the conclusion of last night's debate. I was a bit surprised - did that really happen? Usually one of those things you have to go back and check again. It just seemed weird, even for the tempermental McCain.
The truth is even weirder, turns out. They did shake hands quickly, but they were in front of Tom Brokaw's teleprompter. Brokaw then told them to get out of the way. Wait, did that really happen? This is such a strange game.
I'm still a bit surprised that McCain left so quickly, leaving Obama alone to mingle with the audience. The cameras were still running while the pundits were chiming in and awaiting the snap polls. The more I think about it, the more it feels like McCain conceeded the race. By the end, he must have realized that he has no fair chance of catching up. He did a fair job, but nothing that could change the narrative of the campaign, and his frustration was very obvious to anyone who watched or listened.
There's a sense of resignation in the air. I was scouring through the blog at National Review, the longstanding conservative magazine, and the mood is sour. I'm struck by how many readers were openly critical of McCain's debate performance last night; then again, his relationship with the GOP conservatives was tenuous at best. Now that Obama's victory appears imminent, those fractures reappear, and McCain goes back to being hated by the right.
Now that we are entering the end-game of campaign 2008, the ground game becomes key, and morale means everything. The enthusiasm gap between Democrats and Republicans is wide and likely to widen even more. Disguntled and disappointed conservatives may simply decide to sit this one out and let McCain lose. The finality of this loss, of America's firm rejection of the Republican Party in 2006, 2008, and possibly 2010, is bitter medicine to swallow. They ruled the nation for eight long years, and their ideology held sway for a generation. Now, at long last, the ground has shifted, and Obama will have the opportunity to forge a Democratic majority for the next generation.
This race is over. I've felt it for the past two weeks, and now I feel it more firmly than ever. There are no guarantees, of course, in life or in politics. But the GOP is completely disgraced, their conservative free-market ideology thoroughly broken. The rise of the netroots and a new generation of progressives, the multiracial diversity of America, the arrival of Barack Obama. We're waking up to a new America. It will take us a long time to repair the damage wrought by the Republicans, by Bush, by Cheney. But this nation had its back up against the wall many times in the past. The Revolution, the Civil War, the Great Depression, WWII. Past generations found their inner strength and shocked the world. Now it will be our turn.
It's a great time to be alive.