Nov 052008

I’m not one to take a great interest in American politics. I see their system of electoral college delegates following the trend of the popular vote, without being obliged to do so in reality, to be fatally flawed. I don’t see it as democracy in action, so don’t take a real interest in what happens and doesn’t.

I have been interested, to a mild degree, in the current election process, purely from the perspective of seeing what we saw today – a Democrat elected as President. Clearly, Republican ideology of the brand we’ve seen at the head of that country’s administration is not good for America, just as it hasn’t proven beneficial for the world at large. Whether Barack Obama or Hilary Clinton were nominated as candidate for their party was of no interest to me. That the opposite major party to that in power won today’s election in the United States was of interest to me. Only over the past couple of months, and only because we who are so distantly removed from the US geographically, were bombarded so heavily by our own media with daily bulletins about the presidential campaign, was I virtually forced to pay some attention. Exposure to a foreign country’s politick was never so complete in Australia as during this recent campaign.

A Democrat won today, and not just any Democrat, but a black Democrat. Surely, a monumentally historic day in the evolution of society within the United States of America. The American Dream and numerous superlatives of a similar ilk have been uttered today, but I believe that far from a dream fulfilled, a non-Anglo-Caucasian president was an inevitability. Just as, I believe, an indigenous or latino president is an inevitability. Race is not and should not be a barrier, but reality demands that race will always be, if not a barrier, at least a considerable hurdle. Especially in certain sectors of the United States social culture. The difference I see in the popular vote selecting Barack Obama as the 44th president of the United States is not the man’s skin colour, or his ability to raise money for an election campaign, although in America the latter seems to be integral to success. The difference I see between Barack Obama and his opponent, John McCain, is an ability to instil a sense of hope for change on multiple levels in the people that matter. Those who actually turn out to vote.

Obama is not only charismatic, he is also an orator. Throughout history the political leaders who have made an impact on their societies, have all been orators. People who, through the use and delivery of mere words, can incite emotion in the people that matter. For myself, and putting the differentials in ideology aside, I saw McCain as an old man, with fixed ideals, and a running mate who would replace him when he carks, who is a self-declared red-neck. It’s that red-neck culture I saw as the primary danger to the US, and by implication, the world. Sarah Palin, I don’t believe, typifies that culture, but she went out of her way to appeal to it. The chance of Sarah Palin taking the reins of the US, were McCain to be elected & die in office, which at 72 years of age with known health problems is a distinct possibility, was simply to terrible to contemplate. McCain, to my eye and ear, didn’t excite. He appeared awkward in speech delivery, and even resorted to typically right-wing ad hom insults during the debates that I saw. Poor form, unfocussed and frankly, just more of the same. I’m not at all surprised that America voted as it did today. For change.

The task, of course, now lies ahead of Obama. Like Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Obama takes the reins of a country deeply in recession. Unlike FDR, Obama is faced with a financial system in serious decline, frozen to all intents. A health system in serious decline and two external expeditionary wars, both the products of a previous administration. His party’s politics are essentially protectionist, insular and libertarian. Obama himself is a pragmatist and outward looking. Democratic politics control the US Congress and House of Representatives with a mainly ‘left’ influence. Obama’s politics from what I can discern, are more centre-right, than left. I may be wrong, but I see a battle for him to hold sway over what might turn out to be a somewhat hostile parliament. I’d suggest the first 100 days of an Obama presidency will set the tone for what follows. FDR had 15 bills passed in his first 100 days, and pundits claim that’s a record which won’t be surpassed. We’ll see, but whether it’s 5, 10, 15 or more bills, history will record the manner of an Obama presidency, not the number of legislative instruments signed off.

The world now enters a new era. Hopefully, one of change. Hopefully, one of a less expeditionary, intrusive, aggressive America and one of a more considered, measured and deliberate America. An era where Americans might feel less embarrassed by their political machine, less concerned of what other global citizens think of them because of their administration’s politics. I fervently hope that Americans might start to feel less endangered when they travel, because of the actions and activities of an Obama administration. Issues of Islamofascism aren’t going to vanish overnight, but I believe those issues will be treated in a less belligerent, more intelligent manner. Peace and democracy do not flow from the barrel of a gun, nor does detente evolve from a refusal to talk. Let’s all hope that an Obama presidency will provide a way out of those obstructive negatives of the Bush era, and onward to new and more thorough understandings. I might even start taking a more considered interest in US politics. Who knows…..change is a good thing. If it can be accepted.

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