Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Obama

I've had quite a few emails from people asking me when I was going to write an "Obama essay"? I'm flattered that people are interested in what I think about the election.
Whenever I write political posts no one ever leaves a comment, so I figured my diatribes were of limited interest.
I've always assumed visitors to the blog simply skip ahead to the pictures of China or Iceland after thinking to themselves "Ugh! there he goes again........"
When I comment about current events I'm usually letting off steam because I'm feeling particularly grumpy about something.
This time I'm not the least bit annoyed.
Obama's victory represents to me all that is wonderful about the United States.
It's pretty hard to dispute the core American value that anyone can achieve anything in that great country. The wild celebrations were reminiscent of a Super Bowl or World Series victory (without the looting and rioting).
There is another underlying theme.
The First Black President.
Have the wounds of the past finally been put to rest?
Racial politics in the US has always been somewhat of a puzzle to me.
The whole debate is complex.
"Do the right thing and all will be well or at least get better" may seem a bit simple but it's always been my gut reaction. It would be the height of dishonesty however to say that I don't possess my own arsenal of misinterpretation, and misunderstanding of the African American experience (or Black Experience generally for that matter). I don't think that being white, I can possibly understand the significance of Obama's ascendancy to African Americans, or to people of colour throughout the world.
It is a huge event.
Its important at this point to air one common perception regarding this election. Many folks are of the opinion that African Americans voted for Obama simply because he was Black and would have done so regardless of his politics. The argument goes that if an African American voted Republican they were viewed as a sell out or worse, an "Uncle Tom" in the eyes of their compatriots.
No doubt some people of color felt this way, but this analysis lends itself to the view (racist in my mind) that a simple minded segment of the population followed a racial directive without thought to the implications of their choice; Obama was successful only because the right minded among the white majority took note of his political message and made the difference.
Well, think back to Jesse Jackson's candidacy some years back. He didn't get anywhere near the support from African Americans that Obama did.
Equally unforgivable is the view that white people in America voted for McCain in reaction to Obama's color rather than their political beliefs. This was supposed to manifest itself via the "latent redneck" syndrome epitomised by the much talked about "Bradley effect" .
It didn't happen.
It would be naive to suggest that some people didn't vote along color lines but to explain the election results this way ignores an overwhelming fact: There has been a clear and monumental shift in the American political landscape.
Obama preached inclusiveness; not the lip service mouthed by every politician regardless of political stripe.
Obama's whole political agenda starts from this basic underlying principle.
I don't mean Black and White.
I mean all elements of society have a place in the political process.
All people have a stake in the decisions being made and the debate leading up to those decisions.
It's my gut feeling that the Republicans are incapable of truly embracing or propagating such a goal.
I may be wrong but I think I'm right.
Though fairly light on detail, Obama's policies regarding the conflicts the US are involved in and the challenges facing the world's biggest economy are the right way forward. Providing health care to all Americans, dealing with the abuses of unfettered capitalism and the need to remake America's tattered image in the world are all messages that Obama has consistently articulated. Yes the details are hazy but the sentiments and direction of the goals are spot on.
Neither candidate laid out a detailed plan, and nor is that the way its done.
The Republicans are in disarray and are about to begin the process of eating their own during the post mortem.
I hope Mrs Palin is the first consumed though I fear that's not going to be the case.
Was Obama's election a reaction to failed Republican policies and a rejection of the far right's dominance over the past 8 years?
In part yes.
It would be difficult to imagine an America not exhausted by 8 years under Bush.
The present circumstances may have prepared the way for Obama, but they don't explain his success.
His galvanising message and inspiring vision for the country almost feel like an inevitable rebirth of the American body politic.
Dear me.
Its easy to get swept up in it all.
Though I'm too young to have experienced it, I suspect that the Obama phenomenon must be similar to the JFK mania which swept the country in the 1960s.
The sense of optimism and excitement are palatable.
There are signs however, that this shift in American politics is not all encompassing.
California, that bastion of progressive politics in the US (despite the seemingly endless procession of Republican Governors), passed proposition 8, taking away, a fundamental right already granted to a segment of the population: the right of gay people to have their marriages/union/civil partnership/ whatever label floats your boat, officially recognised under law.
A more mean spirited act is hard to imagine.
Despite yesterday's historic victory, it's clear intolerance and bigotry still holds sway in some quarters.
There is much yet to be done.
There is a danger that Obama will disappoint a lot of people.
Change will take time.
His task is monumental.
The world's economy still teeters on the brink of the abyss.
The lobby against health care reform has seen off every challenge to date and will not surrender meekly.
The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are quagmires.
The obstacles to a racially just society have not gone away, nor will they vanish overnight.
But hope is burning brightly.
The world is full of goodwill towards America. In just one day the world standing of US has changed 180 degrees and this reversal is, in itself, remarkable.
I think all Americans should (and will) work to take advantage of this historic opportunity.The changes could transform not only America, but the world.
Patience will be key .
There's still a ton of work ahead.
The first step, however small ( but in a way gigantic), has been taken .
So that my friends, is what I think, as idealistic and starry eyed as it may appear.
I'm sure a week from now I'll reread this when I'm back to my cynical, jaded self, and cringe self-consciously.
So be it.
Smarter people than me will no doubt have a far more sophisticated analysis.
Stay well everyone
T
Postscript: When Fox News starts in on the inevitable infighting (the day after the election no less), you know it's going to get ugly. It makes you wonder what will come out eventually. Go here to see Palin getting thrown under a bus.....thanks Chris.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

Miss mini-Baron's take on it all:

"I still can't belive Obama won!!
Mommy said that if McCain won we would move somewhere else."

TR-HW

Anonymous said...

I normally don't agree with your political rants because I do think you are often too cynical; however, I think you got it spot on this time. So please don't look back and cringe at this post. As a New Yorker and Democrat, I'm elated. People were cheering in the streets when Obama was proclaimed the winner (and I live in a predominantly white neighborhood in Manhattan - we're all thrilled). But I'm still concered that 46% of Americans supported a confused Republican party that is struggling with an identity crisis, but revels in fear and the propogation of misinformation. Blue states contribute 2/3 of the country's tax revenue, yet the red states complain loud and often that Obama and the Democrats are going to raise their taxes! Most of them will be in a better position tax-wise with Obama in the White House than many of us in the blue states. But taking one for the team is something that Democrats seem willing to do - makes me proud.

Anonymous said...

I think your thoughts are sound and I agree with most if not all of them; not that it really matters. No doubt we will all fall back into our cynical ways. Obama's task is daunting and there is no doubt he will be questioned for his decisions and often criticized for what we don't like or understand. He will not please me, or you, or the American people that voted for him all the time. However, I do believe he is thoughtful, dedicated, intelligent and decent. I think he has a real chance of making a difference for Americans and the world. I wish him all the best and I say that for shelfish as well as unselfish reasons.

David

Anonymous said...

what a load of crap

Anonymous said...

You are...
a) a Republican
b) a cynic
c) a sore loser
d) all of the above

David

I said...

Well said, T.