This is a sometimes 'cheesey' blog about British and American politics and anything else which tickles my fancy!

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Why I'm supporting Barack Obama

This is the most important election of my lifetime.

What happens tonight in America will reverberate around the world for decades. And have huge consequences for all of us, everywhere. Will America slip backwards for more of the same? Or will it embrace change and become the leader we so desperately want it to be?

It has been the most exciting General Election campaign of my life so far. I remember when no-one, other than my dad and I, had even heard of Barack Obama – but we have followed his progress from the start. And tonight we will be watching from the US Embassy in London as the results come in.

I will be looking, in particular at three states: Virginia, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

Virginia used to be the most important state in the union. All the early Presidents came from there. It has not been Democratic though for decades. Republicans have dominated state and national elections.

Tonight it could all be different. The demographics of Virginia have changed. It is younger, richer, more liberal than ever before and there is a large chance Obama will take it. Results for this state should be in by midnight our time. If Obama wins it, I think he is on course for a landslide.

Ohio is the stereotypical bellwether state. In the election of 1828 when Andrew Jackson became President, it was a fiercely fought, close contest even then. The polls show Obama is ahead but I think things are finely balanced. If Obama wins this state he will be President.

Pennsylvania is a real fight. The polls show Obama leading here, but each campaign says things are much closer. In the last two weeks, both candidates have traversed the state up and down. In the primary campaign, Obama struggled to win over white, working class voters. But over the last few weeks, as the economic crisis has deepened, he has really connected with them, while McCain’s efforts have been lacklustre. If McCain wins this state, it will be a major setback for Obama and probably create a frisson of nervousness in every Obama supporter’s living room. However, if Obama wins he will be President.

All of these results should be in by 3am our time. I predict turnout will be huge – particularly amongst African American voters in places like Georgia and North Carolina.

And they will be voting for a candidate who offers real change and real hope.

I do not just support him because he is an eloquent, brilliant speaker, nor because he is ferociously bright – he is all of those things by the way - but because he offers a real antidote to the cynicism and spin we have come to associate the Bush Presidency with.

He is authentic. He speaks with passion and conviction. He appeals to our better natures.

He is inspirational yet thoughtful – capable of making momentous decisions and let’s not forget he has an awful lot in his in-tray when he enters the Oval Office.

His campaign has tested him and proved his metal. He grew up through the hard knocks school of Chicago politics. He had the Clintons and the Republicans throw everything at him, but he remained cool and measured and determined. Important qualities which make him fit for the White House.

His election would truly be transformational and have huge symbolic value for African Americans living in the States who still remember what it was like to grow up under segregation.

In one important way though, his election would also prove an age old truth: The politics of change and hope will always triumph over the politics of fear.

Come on Barack!


Hannah said...

I am 22 and I'd like to capture my thoughts before America either elects a president who its first 26 presidents could have legally owned, or brazenly subverts the very ideals it was founded upon by manipulating numbers in a final embarrassingly overt goosestep towards corporate totalitarianism.

I am nervous. And not night-before-the-swim-test nervous or even night-you-lose-your-virginity nervous, it's a low rumbling primal panic which I can only liken to Star Wars panic. Disney panic. The edge-of-your-seat-terror that makes you wonder if Skywalker's doomed after he refuses to join Darth Vader and drops down into the abyss, if the wicked octopus or grand vizier or steroid-pumping-village-misogynist is going to wed/kill/skin the dashing prince and then evil people in dark funny costumes are going to take over the world... if it wasn't a movie of course.

And tonight it's not. It's not a movie and yet I feel like Obama might as well be wearing an American flag cape while a decaying McCain, in a high-tech robotic spider wheelchair wearing an eyepatch and stroking an evil cat, gives orders to a sexy scheming Palin who marches back and forth through their sub-terranian campaign lair in four inch thigh-highs and full-body black leather catsuit bossing around the evangelical ants with a loooooong whip... umm... is this just me?

Anyway, the point is that things feel weird folks. I have friends who have peed in waterbottles to keep from interrupting a Halo-playing marathon who got off their asses/couches to volunteer for the Obama campaign not once, but many times. Friends so cheap their body content is at least 1/3 Ramen Noodle who donated a good deal of their hard-earned cash to the campaign. People have registered to vote in record numbers, and yet, something just doesn't feel right. I think we should stop congratulating ourselves for just voting. To vote is a privilege which people have died for, and I think there's a whole lot more to be done for the country than to simply help win an election every 4 years.

Hundreds of millions of dollars, hundreds of thousands of man-hours spent on both sides by good-intentioned people who want to make a difference in an historic election, so many resources and voices and energies devoted to a single day. After tomorrow, half of that is going to have been a waste. And I can't help but wonder what could have happened if all that muscle had been put towards something else, and what will happen to its momentum after the election has come and gone. Shouldn't we be donating our money to good causes whenever we can? Helping people who don't have? Dedicating some of our time to contribute to making the country which provides for us a better place? Of course a power shift is a hugely significant step on the path to great reform, but worrying about this election has been a wakeup call for me:

Even if Obama wins, we have not "won." This isn't a movie and we can't toss every greedy lobbyist oil fatcat bigot down a reactor shaft. I think if we dedicate ourselves to the ongoing welfare of the country as much as we have to the outcome of this election, we'll have a much better shot at coming closer to the overwhelming good the liberals hope Obama will usher in, but which no mere mortal could fully realize alone.

Which brings me to the other side. I've heard a lot of people claim that if McCain wins, they're leaving. I heard the same thing about Bush's reelection, and his unelection before that, and nobody seems to be leaving. And that's fine. Because as much as I complain about certain political happenings, atrocities, etc., I really do like it here and I suspect most other people do too. We have New York and Hollywood, purple mountain's majesty and sea to shining sea, we created jazz and country music and baseball and cars and lightbulbs and computers and that movie with hundreds of animated singing Chihuahuas! I mean who among the shivering Plymouth pilgrims ever imagined ordering hundreds of animated singing chihuahuas onto a magical box from an invisible information superweb?

The point being, if things don't turn out the way I want tomorrow, I feel compelled, as a college-graduated adultish-type-person, to take a stand. And if I'm going to leave I'm going to leave. But if I'm going to stay I'm not going to sit around whining like I have for the past 8 years. It's like when I don't clean my room because it's dirty and then I blame the dirt. So in my very indecisive way, before you and your screen, I'm declaring my intention to make some kind of stand in the event of -(Ican'tevensayit)-, and encouraging you to consider making one too...

Jump the ship or grab a bucket?
Wasn't everything so much easier back when the worst possible affront to your values was a PB&J sandwich cut diagonally with crust?

Anyways, I guess what I'm saying is that if we're going to stay on board, we should probably be generous with our time and resources when times are tough even more than when the hero saves the day. Because what if he doesn't? And what if he can't? If we're serious about real change, election day should only be the beginning of "Yes we can," not the end.

Hannah Friedman

Professor Y. Chucklebutty said...

Hello Alex, just a quick note to let you know that news has just come through on my telegraph machine. He has won. I wanted to be the first to tell you.

I know McCain took Kentucky on the night, just in case he got peckish waiting for the results.

Let us hope that the President Elect will be able to live up to our hopes and dreams. Up until the last moment, like many I suspect, I did not think this was possible. On an international level, it is like the joy at the end of Thatcherism, magnified a million times. Mrs Thatcher was brutal and cold but those running the Bush Administration for the last 8 miserable and bloody filled years who have sunk to new depths of inhumanity and naked greed have brought shame on us as a country for choosing to walk hand in hand with the bully and shame on the American people. I do not wish to speculate on what President Obama will be able to do for the poor and dispossessed of America or for African Americans or even climate change policy when faced with the greatest financial collapse for nearly 80 years. Unjust ongoing wars that are costing the lives of American troops in what was an engineered conflict based on lies and ambitions for control domination and wealth. Wars that slaughter innocent people on a daily basis that inspire even more bloodshed on the streets.

He has a monumental task ahead and any goals he has set will need the support and the will of the Democratic Party and the American people. The People will be faced with the impact of recession and there is little he can do to halt that in the short to medium term and if we spiral into a depression, then as the impact hits across the states and the world, the risk of further global conflict will increase.

It is to be hoped that the support he will need from the people and his own party will go beyond the drive to win the election.

But whatever happens, at least today, the birds appeared to sing again and the dark shadow of imminent catastrophe that the George Bush cast on the world has faded.

Now just one other thing. This Andrew Jackson Cheese Business.
It was one of my Ancestors who delivered the block, Silas Chucklebutty. In his diary he writes,"... finally delivered that cheese. It’s been on the cart for a month now and has definitely gone off. If I'd left it any longer, it could have walked there itself. Took it to Jackson who complained that his GP has told him he is lactic intolerant and to take it back. innit marvellous!"

Anonymous said...

I think you're going to have to get used to Chucklebutty's idiosyncratic take on life, politics and the universe. The cool people in Liverpool really love him - he is a breath of fresh air - and a lot of fun!!!!