Wednesday, November 05, 2008
Getting the Measure of Obama's Victory
1. Defeat of Discredited Republicans: OK, this is a partisan view but I think this party, under Bush junior, has woefully mismanaged the affairs of his own country and the wider world for which, by virtue of its power, the US has a responsibility.
2. Healing Racial Divide: Anyone familiar with Americans will know how deeply the racial division runs. Lincoln may have won a battle for black slaves, but the war continued for at least century afterwards, and to some extent still continues. The fact that the country has been able to put such dishonourable sentiments behind it is hugely to its credit and that of its political system. Even more so, though, to the quality of an outstanding candidate who resolutely refused to speak the language of racial confrontation but took the Mandela route towards conciliation and the power of example.
3. Renewing Democracy: By rousing so many new voters, especially younger ones and disillusioned blacks, Obama has renewed US democracy at a time when it sorely needed it. Now it is our ailing systems in Europe which need to be saved from atrophy.
4. Affirming the Power of Language: I used to reckon Clinton and Blair were the most gifted political communicators in the west. No more. Compared with Obama's soaring poetic oratory, which seems to be there naturally, drawn from a deep natural well of loquacity requiring no speech writers, these two seem like tawdry political hacks.
So it's done. The boos at McCain's gracious concession speech indicated all resentment is not done and the danger of a sudden spasm of resentful reaction remains close. But Obama's real challenges now lie ahead. Presiding over the parlous state of US and world finances is a job which will keep his sleeping hours to the minimum. And solving the still substantial mess of Iraq and the deteriorating one in Afghanistan, will require more than oratory. But he begins with the best possible start: a rousing, unifying victory. May his best efforts be met with eventual success.