Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Change Comes to America

Since I last posted, the big news, of course, is that the United States has a new president-elect! My relief that eight years of George Bush’s policies are almost at an end-- eight years that have seen the influence of the United States decline--is tempered by concern for the future.

As a holder of a British passport I wasn’t able to participate in the election. Had I been able to, I would have voted for Obama. The alternative wasn’t acceptable to me. I think the Republican Party has become too closed-minded, too focused on issues that divide. But more importantly, they have proved themselves inept at governing the country. Perhaps they’ll now embrace the political landscape of the future and not retreat into a cocoon believing they were not “conservative” enough. They need to focus on issues that really matter instead of on focus issues that divide.

Though I like many of Obama’s policies, I have never warmed to Barack Obama the man. Certainly he is capable, smart, and much else besides; but I can’t get myself to like him. Of course, a president doesn’t have to be likeable, just competent. A competent president: now there's a concept!

Brought up on the staid politics and three week campaign that is the norm in the U.K., I am wary when I see grown men and women swooning, crying, and chanting at political rallies. I just am. I know people were desperate for change, and I am sure Obama is aware of the power his words can have on people. My hope is that they translate into deeds.

The superlatives that have been showered on him remind me of the early days of Tony Blair, a man I never trusted or liked. In his ’97 election victory, Blair successfully threw the governing Conservatives off balance by adopting many centrist policies, yet I wonder how many of his supporters are happy with the way it ended when he left office. Blair was also seen as the harbinger of change (he changed Britain in many ways I didn't agree with) but turned out to be the master of spin.

I hope an Obama administration brings the change America needs. I hope, too, that he retains a measure of confidence should the economic mess left by the Republicans bite harder. Perhaps his victory wouldn’t have been possible without eight years of Bush’s bungling and divisiveness, but I do think it's brilliant that the electorate elected a black man to the highest office in the land. I also hope it bodes well for the British-U.S. relationship. He has a lot of goodwill—as well as a lot to contend with—and I wish him well.