So, the US elections are finally more-or-less over. The American people appear to have given the Democrats larger majorities in the House and Senate, important results that should not be overlooked in the general rejoicing that they have also elected Barack Obama as president.
The first African-American president is of great symbolic importance, and it’s vital not to underestimate the significance of symbols. Furthermore, Americans have voted for what he has offered in his campaign, by a significant margin (at the moment, the New York Times website gives Obama a majority of seven million or so). Obama won Virginia and, apparently, North Carolina (the NYT gives 100% of the vote called, but hasn’t marked it as a Democrat victory, which may just be because they’ve all gone to bed, or may be because there are still technicalities to go through). A black Democrat winning in the South is a major change in the US political landscape.
This is already a significant event, and a positive one.
Can Obama live up to expectations?
Given that he is apparently not God, nor Superman, and rumour has it that there is no magic non-inflationary money pit back in the Obama bus (the money apparently was all donated by ordinary Americans), probably not.
However, in the campaign he has demonstrated that he is inspiring, that he can gather knowledgeable advisers and listen to them, and that he has both stamina and poise. If there is no more to Obama than that, he will be a better president than Bush, and better than McCain looked likely to be. (Although I do think McCain’s concession speech was very good.)
In short, to believe that Obama is likely to be a bad president, you have to believe one of the wacko conspiracy theories.
I hope he’s going to be better than “not bad”, but, let’s face it, even that is a major improvement.
Roll on January 20th.
(Cruel question to ask people who are almost-but-not-fully in touch today: Who is the President of the USA?)
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