08 November 2008

Between a Rock and a hard place

Forgive me for coming over all Chris Rock after the euphoria surrounding Barack Obama's election, but there's a part of me that thinks the President Elect's recent elevation might not be the liberal, inclusive evidence of America's tolerance that everyone is reporting it to be. Now the bunting has been packed away and the "McCain/Palin 2008" buttons have hit the remainder bins, the Obama campaign is letting everyone down gently by talking up the size of the task. And with good reason too, as all the sensible analysis points to an economic crisis of biblical proportions.

You can look at this two ways - after eight years of catastrophically bad leadership, the country was crying out for radical change, no matter what colour the candidate. An alternative view might be that things have gotten so bad, a small majority of Americans thought: what's the worst that could happen? The small, cynical part at the back of my mind thinks: what does this say about America, that it takes the biggest crisis of the last 80 years before a black man can make it into the white house?

Actually I don't think this is cynical at all, but quite a reasonable conclusion to draw. After all, Obama didn't start pulling away from McCain until the banking crisis really pushed the US economy down the toilet. President Bush has been setting records for the worst poll ratings for the last three years - to be in the same zip code as him, never mind the same political party, should have been as toxic as a sub prime mortgage in Detroit. If the economy had been bumping along with a few job losses, Cindy McCain would be choosing curtains for the Oval Office by now. Despite the fact that Obama was clearly the best candidate in terms of brains, eloquence, inspiration, organisation, decision-making, judgement, policy, savvy, originality and nous, it took a earthquake to the entire underpinnings of capitalism to give him a chance.

1 comment:

PW said...

In terms of the popular vote, the US is pretty evenly split between liberals and conservatives. Every four or eight years, there's an opportunity for the balance to shift slightly in one direction or another - largely determined by the actions of middle-ground voters and particularly those found in key 'swing' states, which take on undue importance due to the winner-takes-all nature of the electoral college. I feel there are really two Americas: the central and southern belt that voted McCain and are bewildered by Obama and what he represents and the liberal coast and parts of the northern border areas, where people are alienated from the Republicans. These two sides will be locked in combat for many years to come. Much the same scenario as Israel, where the doves and hawks split pretty much 50/50 in a never-ending tussle.