Dec 2008

Short Obama post

I have plenty to say on the new president(-elect) of the United States. But I want to get this single point out of the way. I supported an Obama vote, because I honestly felt that the presence of a member of the Christian Right on the Republican ticket made them too damn dangerous. But I did so with the clear caveat that Barack Obama was merely the lesser of two evils. There is no evidence whatsoever that he intends to — or is even capable of — implementing the kinds of radical policies necessary to address the serious problems facing us today (resource depletion and Climate Change).

It’s certainly nice to see America have it’s own little Portillo-moment, and I do not begrudge in the slightest the celebrations of those Americans who view Obama as a major force for change. The hangover will be painful, just as it was in Britain in the late 90s, but after 8 years of Dubya Bush who can blame folks for having a bit of a piss-up?

Politically speaking, I agree completely with Merrick when he points out that the new boss is the same as the old boss.

See, there is one decision that a western leader could take which would indicate that a fundamental change for the better has occurred. One decision that would send out a powerful signal that we are finally on the right track. And even though it’s a difficult decision, and even though there would be no guarantee that its implementation would be successful, it would be like an announcement to the future that someone had finally understood the problem. Though, what’s remarkable about the decision is that it goes against the ideas of the capitalist right and the traditional socialist / communist left.

It’s the decision to end our fixation with economic growth. We need to decide to scale things back. Less work, less consumption. A managed powerdown. And I’m not talking about some absurd neo-primitivism. This can only happen through intelligent and efficient use of technology.

Anyone really think that’s on Obama’s agenda?


The story is never that simple though. Obama’s election does not herald a major political change (I’d be surprised if it even heralds a minor one). But a huge social change has occurred. And I’m willing to applaud that and support it with all my heart. I lived in Texas for a short time and in the US midwest for a bit longer. The division of the country along race lines was far more pronounced than it was in other places I’d lived. Even when I lived there, during the Clinton years, there was a palpable racial tension.

Now, obviously I’m not saying that the election of Barack Obama means that US racism is a thing of the past. That would be far too easy. But it is a powerful symbol of positive progress. From slavery to the presidency in less than 150 years isn’t to be underestimated.

I’m thinking mostly of those children — both black and white — who will start going to school over the next few years. They’ll open their history books and see pictures of all their presidents. For the first time there’ll be a non-white face among them. The social and psychological message that one, simple picture will send out should not be dismissed, merely because Obama’s politics are business as usual.

Posted in: Opinion