Posted at 12:00 AM ET, 11/ 8/2008

The Next Next President

Sebastian has moved on.

"Who is going to be the next president, daddy?" my four-year-old son asks impatiently.

"Barack Obama," I tell him.

"No, I mean after that."

Seabass has caught the perpetual campaign bug.

He was upset he couldn't vote last Tuesday; he's been a McCain aficionado since watching the war hero drive a tank over Obama in the JibJab election video. Plus, a certain five-year-old buddy of his -- a boy whom Sebastian looks up to because he is "superfast" -- was proselytizing for the GOP ticket.

On election eve, Sebastian insisted that his mom (whose distaste for the McCain candidacy would be hard to overstate) help him write "McCain" on a piece of paper, so he could pretend to cast his own ballot.

My son's reaction to the electorate's verdict: "ohhhhh nooooo." Then he became the only person in America to ask whether McCain can run again

This is all great fodder for future father-son bonding. Or maybe it's father-son ribbing. I can picture myself years from now, meeting Sebastian's college girlfriend over dinner and casually bringing up the fact that my son wanted to vote against Barack Obama in the 2008 election.

"Dad, I was four," he'll say, reddening, and kicking me under the table. The same "what are you doing?!" reaction I'd have when my parents would break out the pictures of my 1970's adolescence to share with others, a visual extravaganza featuring lots of polyester, acne, braces and really bad haircuts.

I am not terribly partisan, as readers of Stumped may have gathered, but Obama's win clearly puts the country on the right side of history. Voters sensed that Obama's innate wisdom trumped his relative inexperience, and it is now up to him to prove them right. To do so, he'll have to disappoint his most ardent supporters, win over skeptics and declare his independence from his party's more entrenched interests. He'll have to remain true to his "one America" manifesto from the 2004 convention and the idea that no one party holds a monopoly on good ideas, moral values or patriotism.

My hope is that Obama will prove such a strong, unifying leader that this election will appear as significant in retrospect, years from now, as it does at the moment. I tend to roll my eyes when people say this is the most important election of our lifetime, because we seem to say that every four years. But this one, I suspect, will stand out -- along with such sea changes as the 1932 or 1980 elections. But it is too soon to say.

It certainly was an entertaining year, and I was privileged to witness it and share it with you in this campaign-themed column, which must now be retired, along with all those yard signs and nasty TV ads.

I can't wait to tell Seabass as he grows older about Snipergate, my personal favorite mini-drama of the election year, when Hillary Clinton "misremembered" being shot at by snipers and having to run "zig-zag" after getting off a plane in Bosnia. (Maybe it was the unforgettable scene from "The In-Laws" with Peter Falk that confused her.) I can't wait to tell him about Sarah Palin's claim to be an expert on foreign policy because she could see Russia from her house (oh wait, that was Tina Fey). And about "Marcusgate" (as in Neiman Marcus and a certain little shopping spree).

But most of all, I will invoke this election year to Seabass at certain challenging moments as he grows up, when he may be worried about an opposing team's prowess on a sports pitch, or may be fretting about seemingly daunting odds in other endeavors.

I will tell him to think about Obama, and how this young senator with the funny name calmly, self-assuredly, took on what appeared to be one of the most formidable, well-endowed and predestined candidacies of all time (Hillary Clinton's, that is); about how he prevailed in the end, by believing in himself and in what he was doing, by sticking to his game plan without worrying about what the other candidates were or were not doing, to the point where Obama's confidence in himself became so contagious, by election day his once Quixotic candidacy was the one that was formidable, well-endowed, predestined.

The odds against you are not an immutable reality; they are largely what you think they are. That is the inspiring takeaway from this election, one to be relished for years to come.

As for making your peace with our next president, Sebastian, I suspect one of Obama's crucial decisions for his first 100 day in office -- getting his girls a puppy -- will help bring you into the fold.

Thanks to everyone for reading Stumped, and for all the great questions throughout the year.

Posted by Andres Martinez | Permalink | Comments (32)
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