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.

An Obama presidency could do much to end covert racism
Firstly, Obama is black. If the United States were to elect a black man, it would do much to change American domestic perceptions about race. Although overt racism is already taboo in American politics, the Republicans have found a method to appeal to closet racism with their "southern strategy." If Obama were elected president, it would be a mighty blow against this kind of politics.

Obama offers a chance to heal the estrangement between America and the Muslim world
Now, consider that Obama's father was a Muslim, from Kenya. In the Muslim world, which, by the way, is about 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.

1 comment:

Ridwan said...

Hey there Dade. I respect your opinion and your support for Obama.

As you know, I disagree that he will be good for Black folk or race relations.

I find it interesting that his black identity is only present in this campaign to the extent that it does not make white uncomfortable.

White people, most of them, don't want to hear Obama complain about the treatment of Blacks in prisons, for example.

He won't speak to the sytemic racism that is America because that won't get him elected.

He has worked hard to distance himself from Islam.

America won't change because of Obama. It will be business as usual I am afraid.

That said, thanks for writing about this brother.

Much respect!