Now that the inital frenzy is slowly giving way to real life, perhapse a couple of thoughts on election of Barack Obama for the next president of the United States of America:
(a disclaimer: please note that in this case I’m only an outside observer with a keen interest and may have as such overlooked important details)
OK, so political correctness was never my forte
First and foremost, election results show that US democracy is indeed alive and well. I’ve always maintained that democratic prinicples are implemented by attempts at breaching them. WMD-related-hide-and-seek, Guantanamo, Patriot Act, purging of voters, you name it… The last eight years made the USA anything but a beacon of democracy and at moments it seemed that “e pluribus unum” seemed just a waste of ink on an increasingly worthless dollar bill.
However, the system, which was almost-but-not-quite derailed, bounced back and reaifirmed the old truth, that Newton’s third law applies to politics as well. Every action produces an equal but opposite reaction. But the real proof of democracy being alive and well is the fact that the system can absorb such shocks and swings.
This election was about race and sex as much as it was about politics, yet both were aluded at only eliptically. The irony of Barack Obama’s election for the top job is, that – in order to become the first black president of the US – he had to play down the race card. Even more, he had to pretend that race was not the issue. He even went so far that in his victory speech he only made a passing mention of Martin Luther King, describing him as “a preacher from Atlanta who told a people that ‘we shall overcome'”. Until now it was up to leaders of black community to try to convince the white establishment that “race didn’t matter”. Yesterday, Barack Obama told the black community that race doesn’t matter.
The same goes for Hillary Clinton, who was up against similar mechanisms, only from a point of view of a gender. Had she won the Democratic nomination, she would have to prove to women that she did not run for office because she is a woman, just as Obama reiterated that he did not run for office because he is black, but because he can do a better job than the incumbent and his Republican opponent.
On the whole, the US electorate is (still?) pragmatic and can prioritize. Race could have mattered. Sex could have mattered. Experience in security issues could have mattered more. But as the voters got a sneak-peek of an economic and social Armageddon, they realized that all of the above doesn’t matter a pair of fetid dingo’s kidneys if they’re faced with a prospect of going down to the docks to see if there’s some work.
Negative campaigning aside, Republicans – be it willingly or unwillingly – played a huge part making race and sex a non-issue.. It was as if a spell was broken. What seemed impossible only two years ago, was suddenly perfectly logical. While it was somewhat logical that Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton did not trade blows on race and gender (it would, afterall be a case of the pot calling the kettle black), the fact that Republicans chose to ignore Obama’s weakest point – that they did not portray him as a “racial candidate” – contributed a lot to Obama’s becoming and remainig acceptable to a wide range of voters who might have voted Republican if the racial card was invoked.
And while the decision to ingore this issue might seem obvious, it was a very brave decision to do so. Going after Obama’s race would probably clinch McCain’s victory, but would poison – if not completely sever – itnerracial relations in the US, both politically and quite possibly in a society as a whole. But the Republicans went one step further. Not only they set a standard in term of race (or more acurately, reacting to a non-white opponent), but they also set a standard in terms of gender.
Although she may well be on her way to join Dan Quayle in the House of Political Horrors, nominating Sarah Palin for John McCain’s running mate single-handedly took care of the can-a-woman-ever-be-president dillema. In the words of Barack Obama: yes, she can. If the Democratic party made history, it was the Republican party which held the rear. And John McCain – especially his concession speech – was instrumental in this.
There. My fifty cents 😀