Monday, March 03, 2008
The symbolic value of an Obama presidency
I am now supporting Barack Obama for president. My support is whole-hearted, sincere, and unreserved. Obama was not my first, or even my second choice at the beginning of the electoral process. Nonetheless, I am now enthusiastically on board.
Here's why: I believe an Obama presidency will do much to repair the perceptions of the United States, both abroad and domestically.
First, consider how the United States is perceived today. Internationally, with the neo-conservatives at the helm, the United States seems militaristic, imperialistic, and, let's face it, more of a rogue nation than a responsible superpower. Under the Bush administration, the United States defied international objections when it invaded Iraq. The United States has steadfastly refused to cooperate in even the most fatuous manner in curtailing global warming. The United States' diplomatic corps, under the guiding hand of Condoleeza Rice, is discredited and humiliated. Check out this BBC poll.
Domestically, the United States is divided between so-called "red" and "blue" states, and along racial and religious lines. The Karl Rove zeitgeist of fear and loathing has set Americans at one another's throats.
Now, putting aside, for the moment, his actual positions, just consider the symbolic value of Barack Obama being sworn in as President of the United States.
southern strategy." If Obama were elected president, it would be a mighty blow against this kind of politics.
20% of all of humanity, the symbolic value of an Obama presidency cannot be understated. For Muslims, many of whom view the United States as a country that hates all things Islam, it would be an astonishing and, no doubt, welcome development for Americans to elect, as their leader, a man that is so closely tied to their faith. Granted, Obama is not a Muslim, and has down-played the role of that faith in his father's life. Nonetheless, speaking as the spouse of a practicing Muslim, I am sure that an Obama presidency would do much to change global perceptions about America in relation to Islam.
As to his actual policies, as my friend, Ridwan Laher points out on his excellent blog, Obama has expressed views that are decidedly and unfairly pro-Israel at the expense of the oppressed Palestinians. And his health care solution doesn't seem very well thought-out.
But there is this: Obama was against the Iraq invasion from the start. Obama has made statements that indicate he understands the importance of addressing environmental degradation. Obama is as close to a Washington outsider as we can hope to get.
And, finally, Obama could be a "stealth" candidate, like the theoretical president for which Mark Morford pines in "The 935 lies of George W. Bush." That is, his rhetoric at this point is geared toward broad appeal, much as was Junior Bush's rhetoric (compassionate conservative, "uniter not a divider") during the 2000 campaign. If and when Obama is elected, there is some reason to think that he will govern in a progressive manner. (And, after all, would Hillary be better?)
So, I am now an Obama supporter. He's our best chance.