Everything was happening so quickly in the US elections around lunchtime today (last night their time) that I posted a flurry of short entries as soon as the news broke. It really was an exciting time to be watching the news and an even more exciting time to be reading peoples comments on Twitter in near real time.
In case you've had your head in the sand, Barack Obama is now the presumptive nominee for President of the United States, as I wrote gleefully here. To watch him give his victory speech on on my computer screen through my TV tuner live was nothing short of awe inspiring, and his manhug with Joe and then waving to people with his family was probably one of the biggest moments I've ever seen on TV. As Jim Kloss said on the Whole Wheat Radio collaboration page for today:
We’ve just witnessed history …. “Where were you when Obama gave his speech…….”
History in the making
I didn't exist when the moon landing happened, or when the Governor General sacked Prime Minister Gough Whitlam in Australia; and I was far too young to remember when the Berlin wall fell… I could go on. For my own selfish needs, it's good to be able to say I watched a historic moment that I can talk to people about when I'm old and senile :)
For someone who's 22, George W. Bush has been president for much of my living memory. I've been so used to talking about "that moron in the White House", talking about the latest Bushisms, the humanitarian disasters in central Africa and how he ignored them, Afghanistan, Iraq, the so called War on Terror. I had only just started high school when September 11 happened. This would all be the same for the young voters in the US too. It is just such a great feeling to finally have someone in charge of the Western world who is intelligent and who I can talk about in positive tones for the first time. That is really a great thing!
I'm not sure if I should feel ashamed for thinking this, but while I am pleased President Obama (that sounds good doesn't it?) got the position, I am infinitely more pleased that McCain didn't get the position. With a competent, level headed vice president he could have certainly been better than Bush and Cheney (insert joke about low barriers to entry here) but his choice of Sarah Palin as his running mate scared me. I'm dead serious: she really, really scared me. It bothered me how much anti-intellectualism had clearly gone into the decision; rather than picking a competent and capable person the McCain camp clearly chose someone that they thought they could package and sell to the so called "Joe the Plumbers" of the country. I don't know enough about her policies in Alaska, but seeing her interviewed without a teleprompter and asked questions, it showed that she would be a dangerous person to have command of such a powerful country.
Screenshot of JohnMcCain.com taken this afternoon. For what it's worth, I think McCain was extremely gracious in his final speech, even if some of his supporters in the audience booed like spoilt children each time he mentioned Obama's name.
Being realistic for a second
One thing to be cautious of though is being too optimistic at such an early stage. As I blogged about in September 2007 (No More John Howard!), we recently came out of elections around this time last year which saw our own long serving conservative and Iraq-war supporting Prime Minister John Howard and his coalition government replaced with Kevin Rudd and the centre-left Labor Party which is ideologically similar to the American Democrats. In other words, a similar situation to to what has happened in the United States today.
Now, while this was also fantastic news and set Australia on the right path again on so many issues such as climate change, they also managed to draw from their ranks the boneheaded Senator Conroy who wants to censor the internet for all Australians (NoCleanFeed, no censorship on Australian internet) regardless of the technical infeasibility, the inevitable problems with returning false positives and negative implications for free speech and social justice. It will be interesting to see if Barack Obama and Joe Biden are able to maintain control of their now sweeping majorities and keep the party working together and cohesive.
It does dismay me a tad that Obama has rightly benefited from a society where someone can be elected regardless of their skin colour and background, when he doesn't translate this idea into equal rights for homosexuals. I think we can be fairly confident though that he won't interfere federally with more progressive states decisions, such as the same sex laws in Massachusetts. And for what it's worth, it would have probably been even worse with McCain.
He has also been fairly silent about specifics with regards to the economy, in particular what forms of fiscal and monetary policy he would introduce… and no taxes aren't the big thing! I'm looking forward to seeing who he appoints in his cabinet to advice him on this.
There are huge challenges facing the world right now, and believing Obama is a silver bullet would be naive. What's important to realise though is how critical it is for the United States right now to have the support of the rest of the world as military and economic problems persist. With Barack Obama, so many people from all corners of the globe seemed to have changed their position on, and opinion of, America… instantly! If this global support translates into improved diplomatic relations and more cooperation, I think we're well on our way to solving so many of our problems. We are so much stronger if we work together.
We've got a long way to go, but America made the right choice and we're in a better position with Barack Obama in charge. It's time to welcome America back into the global community :).