There is only one story this week. Obama. Get used to it. This President-elect by his own admission doesn’t look like the President on the dollar bills. Of course the question is will he govern like those other Presidents on the US money. With the world currently mired at the beginning of what looks like a deep recession, President-elect Obama will surely have his challenges.
It was a magic moment last Tuesday night. As you all know I’m a big believer in political polls. However, this time around I was wondering about the “Tom Bradley” effect. Would the American public support a man of colour for their President? When former Los Angeles mayor Tom Bradley had run for California governor, the polls showed him winning. However, on election night he lost and I was wondering if Barack Obama would have the same experience.
Needless to say, that didn’t happen and Obama wrote his own script to the American Presidency. When he started he didn’t have a lot of money and he didn’t have a lot of believers including your loyal scribe. However, he had a plan to defeat Democratic favourite Hillary Clinton by organizing the caucus states in the Democratic race for the nomination. He won in Iowa and then nailed those early states effectively out-maneuvering Hillary Clinton. Once he was ahead, all she could do was vent and punch at shadows. That tells you something about Barack Obama. He is one smart politician.
Politics is one thing, governing is another. In Canada we have had our fair share of smart politicians. What I mean by that are people who know how to win elections. Jean Chretien was surely a smart politician. Stephen Harper watched him and he too, has turned into a smart politician. However, Barack Obama is not only a smart politician but it’s quite obvious, he has a towering intellect, and a gift for oratory, which is inspiring. He also has one of the coolest demeanors I’ve ever seen in the political realm.
Of course we all know the problem with smart people. Why do some many real smart people get in such trouble and often to stupid things? Examples of that abound. Take former President Bill Clinton for instance. He is one of the coolest, most level headed and smart people you could point to. However, he gave it all up for a sexual escapade with an intern half his age. It might have been a heck of an idea at the time, but boy it didn’t quite turn out that way. Ditto for many others. It is what it is.
Obama though seems to ooze charisma. That will help him. His oratory is also something, which draws people in. For instance could you imagine any Canadian politician filling up a football stadium with 80,000 people to accept a political nomination? Hah? That’s not going to happen. However, Obama has such a presence he can bring them in. I can’t imagine George W Bush and others even getting to first base on that score.
Still, he arrives at a very un-opportune political time. Nobody knows how to fix this economic mess. Nonetheless, Obama if he plays this right does offer something, which the global economy really needs. Simply put he offers hope and confidence. Part of this insane global economic contraction has to do with the snowballing effect of a loss of confidence. When Obama takes office on January 20th, the hope and confidence signal he gives the world will do much to turn this thing around.
For the black community the election of Obama was a seminal moment. I have many black friends and they have expressed to me their feelings about Barack and what it would mean if elected. I haven’t talked with any of them since that time, but if media coverage is any barometer, there has been a sea change in that community too. The whole paradigm of what’s expected within the black community is changing.
Things that are very new and completely different are always the sexy choice. In some ways, that meant John McCain didn’t have a chance. Nonetheless Obama fits that bill thoroughly. He has shattered barriers, which have stood in our North American society for generations. In Presidential terms, he’s youthful and that in itself adds a dimension to the office not seen in quite some time.
Stephen Harper is only 2 years older. So let’s count him in that youthful category too. You say no! I know. Stephen Harper doesn’t even register on this measuring stick. That’s how different the Obama win was. Right now the Obama mystic is at its apex. We’ll see how long it lasts.