Actress/comedian Tina Fey gained a lot of much-deserved attention (and ratings) for her spot-on impersonation of Alaska Governor Sarah Palin on "Saturday Night Live," but in retrospect, it may have been another of the show's creations that captured the true zeitgeist of the 2008 election.
In the weeks leading up to Election Day, Keenan Thompson played a "financial expert" for the show's "Weekend Update" segments named Oscar Rogers, a not-so-subtle nod to the hoards of real such experts who have flooded TV screens throughout the current financial crisis. Nattily attired as if he just stepped off the market floor, this sage dispenser of financial advice had just one thing to say – somebody better "fix it!"
"How do we go about fixing it specifically?" he asked. "Take it one step at a time. Identify the problem -- fix it! Identify another problem -- fix it! Proceed as necessary until it is all fixed!" (You can watch the performance here, it's about 2:10 into the clip).
A big part of the reason why President-election Barack Obama's message of "change" resonated so powerfully was the sense among the electorate that things were broken and needed to be fixed, especially on the economy which voters consistently said was the most important issue by far. Less obvious is whether they voted for any specific remedy or simply a wholesale change to --- something.
A glance at the exit polls doesn't suggest a radical change in the electorate when it comes to ideology. Forty-four percent of the electorate identified themselves as moderate, 34 percent conservative and just 22 percent called themselves liberal. That's about the same breakdown as in past elections. Voters instinctively understood that the old ways of looking at politics weren't working, which is why John McCain's traditional argument about tax-and-spend Democrats fell mostly on deaf ears. In pre-election polls, as many or more Americans believed McCain would raise their taxes as Obama.
But change doesn't look like it's going to come easy. Start with the $700 billion financial bailout agreement, which wasn't exactly popular to begin with, that has morphed into one thing after another until it's almost unrecognizable. Now even Democrats are asking the auto industry to go back to the drawing board and put together a bailout plan to sell that they can support.
As the incoming president puts together his cabinet, the first hints show a surprising amount of old-style thinking – or at least familiar, Washington-entrenched names, starting with Rahm Emanuel as White House Chief of Staff. Already there are questions about what kind of change such a team is likely to bring. In the end, it may not matter as long as they find some way to "fix it."