Barack Obama: A Force for Change
Published in Dissident Warwick Issue 3/11/08
by Barnaby Pace
I hope the change that is on offer in US politics today is real. I am not referring to the facetious image politics of the new hopeful having a different racial background, gender or being somebody you would have a drink with but a lasting sea change from the self-serving, squalid and sometimes cruel political climate that has existed in the US for the last 8 years. Yes we are talking about Obama. He is not, and cannot be all things to all men, he isn’t Santa, the Easter bunny or the second coming of Jesus (despite the McCain campaign’s nickname for him, “the one”) but he does offer real hope to both the American people and to everyone else around the world.
In the last 8 years we have witnessed corruption, authoritarian domestic security policies, torture programmes, pugilistic foreign policy, increasing poverty inside the US, the export of an extreme ideological economic policy, denials and obstructionism of action on climate change and a failing US economy, to name but a few issues. We are extremely fortunate that Bush has become a lame duck president with little support in the House of Representatives or Senate. It seems that opinion of US politics is at rock bottom.
It is worth remembering at this point that there will be flaws in the policies put forward by any politician. For my part I dislike the unbalanced pro-Israel stance that Obama has adopted during the campaign, the pugnacious attitude to cross-border strikes in Pakistan, his support of the FISA bill which granted immunity to telecoms companies for illegal wiretapping ordered by the Bush administration, the unwillingness of nearly every US politician to consider prosecuting the current administration for war crimes. On the economy Obama, considered by many an extreme lefty in US politics could be considered either moderate or right of centre by the standards of UK politics. US politics always has been very free market oriented and that is unlikely to change. Obama and the US democrats are not perfect, but we cannot expect any politician to be.
Obama does however have a huge amount to offer. Unlike every US presidential candidate before him his finances are not coming from special interest groups and lobbyists but from small donations from supporters now numbering in the millions. This unwillingness to kowtow to businesses we can hope will be a foundation of many aspects of an Obama presidency. Obama’s plans to reform bankruptcy law to protect pensions over executive pockets, to allow the medicare programme to find cheaper generic prescription drugs from anywhere in the world and to increase the minimum wage to $9.50 an hour are indicative this.
America has become trapped into the Bush-Cheney sabre rattling form of “diplomacy” where anyone who’s not your friend is your enemy, and anyone out of favour cannot even be spoken to. This does not look tough, it looks arrogant. Real diplomacy is based on talking to anyone, friend or foe. The Obama-Biden commitment to talk to any leader and to attempt to re-establish the US as a nation to lead on diplomacy, instead of one to block and bully is one that represents a real hope for action. On issues ranging from global poverty and global arms control to climate change, a new diplomatic approach is much more likely to suceed. The proof of interest in these issues can be found merely by looking at Obama’s voting record and the bills he has sponsored whether on Darfur in the Darfur Peace and Accountability Act in 2006 or by opposing the Kyl-Lieberman amendment which said that the US presence in Iraq should be used to counter any Iranian threat, which would have been a highly aggressive and provocative step.
This is arguably the most scrutinised election in memory with US escapist drama viewers switching to the reality TV of election fever. Barely a day goes by where you cannot find a sizeable article in every UK broadsheet analysing the twists and turns of this election. This isn’t merely due to the spectacle of the rallies or the constant TV adverts but because what this election embodies the hopes of Americans and the world. We see in Obama not only somebody to steer American away from the horrors of the Bush years but to quote former president Clinton, we want to be awed by the power of America’s example, not the example of its power. We can hope that this renewed interest and scrutiny of American politics continues and that a potential Obama presidency is one that is made to live up to the ideals of the lofty rhetoric expressed by the Obama campaign.
We cannot expect Obama to solve every problem, we certainly cannot expect him to do everything we could wish of him, but he has the opportunity to help the millions of American’s people around the globe whose lives have only been made harder directly or indirectly by the Bush regime. Obama can restore our hope that America can be a beacon of hope for the world not the source of pain.