I was absolutely *convinced* – utterly, totally, convinced, that the Republicans were going to steal the US election again. At no point in the election did Obama have a *comfortable* lead in the polls – a lead great enough that it was outside the normal margin of error plus what could be convincingly put down to racism. Remember that Kerry’s lead in 2004 was usually around 5% (in July 2004 it got as high as 13% in some polls) – Obama’s never got much more than 6%. As Leonard Pierce put it over on Sadly, No , “Since my joint’s not in play, I can enjoy drinking all night without worrying about my fellow man, and put off suicide until tomorrow when I wake up and learn that America has remembered that Barack Obama is a negro.”
But somehow the people of the US have actually managed to make the right choice, and get the lesser of two evils into office.
I’m no great fan of Obama – he’s a moderate ‘centrist’ Democrat, which for any other Western country would make him extreme right-wing. He’s someone, after all, who wants the death penalty used for *more* crimes – hardly a truly liberal stance. He also reminds me rather too much of Tony Blair – the messianic fervour with which apparently rational people are treating him, the big grin, the relative lack of substantive commitments, the way that his supporters are far more radical than he is (one irritating trend I’ve seen is that bloggers talking about “what Obama *should* say” to whatever insane Republican campaign trick came up were almost always saying something more appropriate than anything Obama himself would say).
Obama has been used as the repository of everyone’s hopes and aspirations, and to be honest I don’t believe the man’s actually said or done enough to deserve it. I think we’re all in for a *LOT* of disappointment over the next few years.
That said, I am still extremely glad that Obama was elected at all. Not only because of the fact that he was clearly the better of the two candidates (and because his VP-elect isn’t totally, utterly, batshit insane) but because of the message it sends, that America isn’t scared of minorities any more. Not black people – clearly a lot still *are* scared of them, and there’s no reason the election of the first black President would necessarily be more radical than the election of the first Jewish Prime Minister (Disraeli) or the first female one – although it is of course extremely gratifying that a black man *can* become President now; but *intelligent* people.
This is the first time since at least Jimmy Carter that the American people have elected someone who is not only more intelligent than average, but is unafraid to show it. Clinton is hugely intelligent, of course, but he hid that behind the ‘Bubba’ persona; and whatever one’s assessment of Reagan and the Bushes as Presidents, none of them ever gave the impression of being hugely intelligent – or, indeed, of ever having read a book. (Maybe Bush Sr read one once, possibly…). Whether that impression is correct is another matter, of course, but up until now the American people have seemed for some reason to be scared of intelligence in their leaders.
Whatever his other qualities, Obama is clearly a very intelligent, articulate man – someone who talks in thoroughly thought-out, considered, *paragraphs*, and who actually has some knowledge of a variety of different subjects and *talks about them*. Under those circumstances, I can even forgive him not knowing the difference between Green Lantern and the Green Hornet (as in a recent speech reported on one of the comics blogs I read), or misusing the word ‘enormity’ as he did in his victory speech. He is clearly not someone who’s afraid of thought, or afraid of showing that he’s thought about things.
And given that he also appears to be a well-intentioned, decent human being, I think he’ll probably not make things too much worse. Which, after eight years of continual shock to the nervous system as Bush does ever-more-insane things, will be a welcome change. Only two more months of worrying that ‘Dubya’ will decide to drop nuclear bombs on Brazil as a joke, or will invade Canada for being all snooty and saying ‘aboot’, and then we’ll once again have a USA that is led by someone who is worthy of the American people – who are, in my experience, the disproof of the adage that a country gets the government it deserves.