The Kensington Review

3 November 2008


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Latest Commentary: Volume VII, Number 131

Barack Obama for President

Tomorrow, the world’s oldest democracy will choose its 44th president. That man will face two unfinished wars and an economy in deep trouble. The America he will lead has lost its reputation, its sense of community, and some of its freedoms in the last 8 years. The burden is a heavy one, and this journal hesitates only briefly before urging its American readers to have Senator Barack Hussein Obama shoulder it.

The slight hesitation is an acknowledgement that the relatively young senator has a short resume when it comes to elective office. He has spent only 2 years in Washington and served just four terms in the Illinois state legislature. Were this 2016 and had he 8 more years of experience, he would be even more formidable. However, one can take comfort from the fact that his time in DC and Springfield as an elected official is exactly the same amount of time as another son of Illinois had when he ran for the White House. As it turns out, Abraham Lincoln did rather well.

Senator John McCain is the strongest candidate the Republican Party could have fielded in this political climate. A man with a reputation for running against his own (quite unpopular) party and a war hero, it is hard to believe any of the other GOP challengers would be doing so well. At the same time, Mr. McCain has run a lousy campaign, has selected an unqualified and willfully ignorant ideologue as his running mate, and can’t seem to decide on why he should be president other than ambition. His health and age were always issues, but he has compounded them with his lack of focus.

In contrast, Mr. Obama has created a highly disciplined organization, effectively dealt with issues of race and experience with wisdom and insight, and defeated the Clinton dynasty in the process. Not only has he read books, he has written them, and has laid out a pragmatic yet progressive blueprint for America’s future and that of the world. The cornerstone of that plan is the realization that democracy is not a spectator sport but rather the active participation of the citizens in their own governance.

Of course, a largely white America electing a black man to the most powerful office in the world is still rather an astonishing symbol. In politics, symbols matter. To an entire generation of young non-white Americans, it will say “if President Obama could do it, so can you.” To an entire generation of white Americans, it will be yet another symbol that 400 years of injustice are coming to an end.

Outside the US, the election of Barack Hussein Obama will do much to repair America’s reputation. Americans are often thought of as rather naïve idealists who believe there’s a solution to every problem and that tomorrow can be a better day. Yet that naïveté is also what makes America, the idea of America, so fascinating and appealing to millions.

Many will expect much of him, and most will be disappointed – such is politics, the art of the possible, not of the ideal. This journal expects to say harsh things about his administration before he’s been in office very long. However for the moment, the world is in dire need of his leadership, wisdom and optimism.

He has made “hope” the buzzword of his campaign along with “change.” It isn’t new to him. In his 2004 speech to the Democratic National Convention, he said, “I'm not talking about blind optimism here, the almost willful ignorance that thinks unemployment will go away if we just don't think about it, or health care crisis will solve itself if we just ignore it. That's not what I'm talking. I'm talking about something more substantial. It's the hope of slaves sitting around a fire singing freedom songs; the hope of immigrants setting out for distant shores; the hope of a young naval lieutenant bravely patrolling the Mekong Delta; the hope of a millworker's son who dares to defy the odds; the hope of a skinny kid with a funny name who believes that America has a place for him, too.”

It does – The Oval Office in the White House.

© Copyright 2008 by The Kensington Review, Jeff Myhre, PhD, Editor. No part of this publication may be reproduced without written consent. Produced using Fedora Linux.

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