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.


Sara said...

I think his choosing his cabinet early and focusing on the economy first shows he plans to be more than just lip service and nice thoughts. His talk of hope and change, once so full of optimism, has met realities of economic downturn and a costly war overseas. We now have an Economic Recovery Committee with members outside of Congress with impressive resumes, to bring fresh ideas to the table of how we can end this deep recession, in addition to both old and new congressional leaders taking on new positions in the new administration.

I did cry when he won, out of joy and relief and hope. My perception of Britian is that of no fuss even with pomp and circumstance if that makes any sense. Britons do what they have to do and don't make a huge deal about things that we do here. Like sex, nudity, politics. You had a woman running the country centuries ago, and from history's perspective, she ran it well. The woman in charge of Parliament a few decades ago, well that is up for debate. America is still young and infantile in her existence and execution of a democratic form of government. For more than two centuries only wealthy old white men from prominent families have run the country with a few exceptions like Abraham Lincoln. I am over generalizing the typical American president of course, but in my life, I've only seen middle aged White Anglo Saxon Protestant men running the show with either a connection to the movies, interns or oil - power, greed and money. To see a man like Obama rise up from what should have been a craptacular life to quiet the critics and shock the pundits with such an elementary campaign of complex grassroots organization and mobilization is what this country was founded for. It was a first for our nation and our government. As we slide into what could be a greater economic turmoil than the Great Depression, it reminded us that even though times are tough and it feels like the world is against you, the American dream does still exist. It exists for all generations of Americans whether we are a Daughter of the American Revolution or the newborn daughter of immigrants. It's not easy and times have changed, but the dream is still alive.

Chris S said...

I enjoyed reading your views on the election and its aftermath. You are one of the few people I know who both supports Barack Obama and doesn’t really like him as a person. If more of America could support a candidate for legitimate reasons like yours, I think we would be in a much better place right now. U.K. politics seem to have more of the right idea, with two figureheads for the country. A queen/king can be the person you like, but doesn’t have much effect on actual policies. This allows for the Prime Minister to be someone who you may not necessarily like (or want to have a beer with), but whom you can trust to make the right decisions. America has been divided for some time, and I think that division is what keeps politicians from being able to back up their promises. As it is now, America is a center-right country. You don’t have to look any further than Prop 8 in California (and its equivalents in other states) to see that. I think that even with a Democrat majority in the House and Senate, Barack Obama will have to deal with a country that as a whole, doesn’t really agree with a lot of his views. I am glad he won, but I think it is obvious that his charisma (and race) led to some voting for him who may not have otherwise. Hopefully America can change and in four (or eight) years, became a little more like European countries. If not, I would be more than happy to see us split into two (or three) countries. As it is now, politics in the South do not represent me, nor many Americans not in that part of the country. I fear though, that disagreements and division will mark America’s future for some time to come.

allinaword said...

Chris S:

Your point about a future split into two, even three, separate countries is interesting. I hope that doesn’t happen though my curiosity drives me to wonder where you think that might occur. Aside from the South, I can only think of parts of the West.

allinaword said...

I think you are right about the American Dream still existing. That came about in part from breaking the stranglehold of ancient traditions and class. That a Barack Obama can rise to be president bodes well for America.