Friday, November 14, 2008

The New Camelot?

barack obama rides to victory on the democrat donkeyI am not an American, nor am I of African descent (am I allowed to say "not black"?), but nevertheless, I must admit to shedding a few tears during Barack Obama"s acceptance speech. The campaign had been so exciting, so filled with hope, but still there were nagging doubts at the back of one"s mind; could something go wrong? Obama"s election is a truly historic milestone, and I can only imagine the wave of emotion felt by his supporters (particularly African Americans) during the culmination of an incredible campaign. Some have described Obama"s oratory as "celestial" and I completely agree. I can only hope his presidency reaches the same heights as his speeches.

Obama"s victory represents the greatest ray of hope America and the world has witnessed in living memory. He is highly intelligent, shrewd and articulate. The challenges he faces may be huge but he gives the impression that he will relish rising to the occasion. However, despite the tsunami of hope placed in Obama as an agent of change, it would be naïve to expect him to engineer any kind of social revolution. Despite his background of working with the underprivileged he is a rich man. To govern effectively he has to have the support of the Democrats, some of whom are more conservative than moderate Republicans. The main thrust of his campaigning was directed at the middle class, the poor and homeless never rated a mention.

Nevertheless, Obama"s election is undoubtedly an incredibly significant event. Some have pointed out that other blacks have attained positions of influence; Condoleezza Rice, Colin Powell etc. but they are almost always conservatives. The only aboriginal politician elected here in Australia that I can remember is Neville Bonner, who again was a conservative. It"s almost as if non white candidates need to balance their minority status with a right wing position. Barack Obama on the other hand is a left leaning liberal. Sorting out the financial crisis will take priority before any advances in social justice but it least it"s on the agenda. It"s strange to think that a 6% win in the popular vote translates into a 2-1 whitewash in the electoral college. I’m starting to understand the U.S. system but it still doesn"t completely make sense to me. I think Obama"s victory carries a great deal of symbolism which is why it has resonated so much, in the U.S. and around the world.

It remains to be seen how Obama will handle the massive challenges that face him but at the very least the U.S. political landscape will never be the same again. We can only hope, but every time I hear him speak I can"t help but whispering to myself: "damn he"s good!"