Obama and his “Change”
By A.K. Enamul Haque PhD
with Philip Shaw M.Sc
The election results in the US have stunned people around the world. The victory speech of the president-elect Barack Obama was eloquent, articulate, impressive and extraordinary. He said, “If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible; who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time; who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer”. Yes the American public has given an answer to the world with their democratic values.
There were many (including myself) who never believed that a black man could become a President of the most powerful nation of the world so soon but it has happened now. Analysts have been quick to count the reasons for victory and so far they are – the economy, the economy and the economy. I believe that it was investment in education that has done it. Younger generations who went through universities and colleges are less racial than the older generations who lived through the civil rights movement. This group of people often suffers from nostalgia and continues to dream about the good old days. They cannot accept “change” and so I must say despite the economy slogan, I think that it is not the economy that has turned the tide. It is the young American who turned it.
Let us not forget that John McCain also received an impressive number of votes and most of them are not the younger group. According to one poll result 66 percent of the younger voters voted for Obama. The next issue to me – why did the younger generation vote for him – despite the fact that this time the race for the White House was uglier than before.
I think that President Bush did the rest of the job for Obama. He worked positively and helped Obama to win. In the Bush Presidency, Condoleezza Rice, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld were the most powerful persons. Of those people the performance of Ms Rice seemed to be much better than the other two. It presented a more positive image of the black American in the mind of the people. Moreover, in the last eight years, Bush has not only isolated the US from world politics, America is also among the most hated nations in the world. The lies that were told to oust Saddam, the millions of families who lost their loved ones in the conflicts in the Iran and Afghanistan eventually hunted the Republican down.
The next big question is who is going to benefit out of this? What will happen to Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India or Bangladesh? The reason for which I am asking this question is that millions of people around the world also celebrated the victory of Obama as if they were voting for him. This has never happened in the world and millions of people in all parts of the world were hoping that US voters will send a message – a message of hope, a message of fairness, a message of democracy (not hypocrisy) and a message of friendship. As I said above, the verdict was delivered by a small margin and it was by the young Americans who voted overwhelmingly in his favor. Had it been a vote for the economy, Obama would have received more votes.
Obama will now face many challenges. Overnight people of the world seem to have forgotten the past – they all consider Obama as one of their own. Kenyan declared a holiday for his victory, Indonesian children were very happy seeing one of their former schoolmates rising to the power in US. These are all positive signs for US. The issue is, can Obama make the change? Can the US become a fair nation who would understand the pains and sufferings of the people, listen to the other nations to establish a government of the people, by the people and for the people, work to make the world free from hunger, crime and lead a peaceful world through love and not greed, through the rule of law and not by creating a hegemony of power. When Obama made the call for “change” during his initial days on the campaign trail, it was not the economy that was in his mind. He was clearly referring to America’s foreign policy, it isolation from its allies, its failure in Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan. Will it happen? Let us wait and see.
Yes We Can: Barack Obama Gets Set Top Assume the Presidency
By Philip Shaw M.Sc.
One of Canada’s leading preoccupations is American politics. At one time in our history the United States and Canada were the same “country”. Between 1759 and 1776 when the Americans started their revolution, we were the same country. After that for about 100 years the Americans were always threatening to attack us. Simply put, Canadians have always south, not always with affection.
I can remember many times turning on the TV and watching an American President. In fact for a lot of Canadian children growing up in the 1960′s, we didn’t know we had a Prime Minister. President Johnson seemed oh, so big with his Vietnam War. However, as I grew older my Canadian preoccupation with American politics continued. As the 2008 campaign dawned two years ago, I was solidly in Senator Hillary Clinton’s camp. I thought she was unbeatable.
That all changed for me when her husband mentioned Jesse Jackson in the aftermath of Barack Obama’s victory in the South Carolina primary effectively trying to marginalize Obama as just another fringe black Presidential candidate. I thought it so crass. Ever since I’ve been in the Obama camp. When he beat John McCain last week in the US general election, I was amazed. I was amazed not because he won, I can read the polls. I was amazed because of the epic journey he traveled to get there. Simply put, Barack Obama may be an amazing man, but when it comes to being a smart politician, he outsmarted everybody to the top.
Putting it in perspective, Barack Obama was a junior Senator from Illinois, a man without means but with a towering intellect. He got a bit of a break from John Kerry at the 2004 Democratic convention when he was invited to give a keynote address. However, in the year 2000 when he went to the convention, he couldn’t even get through the doors.
So when he announced he was running for President, I thought he had no chance. I didn’t see anyway he could beat the established Hillary Clinton machine. However, his team and his strategy outsmarted her for the nomination, effectively out-foxing her in the caucus states. With the Democratic Party having proportional distribution rules for convention delegates, once Obama was ahead, he couldn’t be caught. Hillary Clinton was caught off guard and effectively couldn’t do anything about it. She fought hard but eventually gave up and grudgingly endorsed Barack Obama.
In many ways it wasn’t a fair fight against John McCain. It was quite a contrast, a 47-year-old Harvard grad against the 72-year-old war veteran. McCain needed something to contrast his opponent and he got it in Sarah Palin, the Governor of Alaska. She rocked the Obama camp because she was newer than Obama, very attractive and she empowered the Republican conservative base.
It was close until, the bottom dropped out of the economy. When that happened, the Obama poll numbers started to gain and they effectively never gave anything back. Sure Sarah Palin had a few hiccups, but she held up well against a media, which was against her. At the end of the day Obama re-wrote the American electoral map. When he came out to address the Grant Park crowd, it truly was a magic moment.
The magic was all about a black man getting to be an American President. For Black America and people of colour around the world, it was a seminal moment. Many older black American can remember a time when they were denied basic civil rights. Racism was more overt then than it is now. In fact it was institutionalized across the southern United States. Seeing a black man who transcended race beat all the odds and become President for many was unbelievable.
Of course now the hard part starts. Enamul rightly points out that the world is watching and hoping for something completely different from an Obama presidency. However, I’m not so sure. Obama may be different, but he knows 48 million Americans didn’t vote for him. That is surely partly why he hasn’t veered very far from typical American attitudes about foreign policy. Sure you might see some obvious differences from George Bush when it comes to Africa, but when it comes to Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran and the Israel, something tells me it won’t be much different. Most of the American public still looks out at the rest of the world with suspicion. Even after all this time, it is still an insular society. Barack Obama along with being a worldly politician is also a realist and a pragmatist. He’ll defend the US even if it’s wildly unpopular in the rest of the world.
However, don’t ever underestimate this man. He believes in a simple creed, which he based a whole campaign on. Yes we can. The world will surely be watching to see.