Fourth Time’s the Charm?
Barack Obama has been elected as the forty-fourth president of the United States. It was easy to tell when he won, because people outside started dancing in the streets and honking their horns. I thought, hmm, doesn’t sound like the start of rioting to me. I don’t remember an election where people were so jubilant at the result, that alone makes it an historic occasion. And I’m happy and guardedly optimistic, though not so much optimistic about Obama, as optimistic about the opportunity this presents America.
This marks by my reckoning the fourth big opportunity the USA has had since World War Two to lead the USA and the world into a new era. On the international front this is a huge break for the USA, and we can pretty much expect to start with a blank slate. Our friends and our enemies (well, most of them) will be happy to put the past behind us and work with Obama if and when he offers up a pragmatic foreign policy a little more nuanced than the “you’re either with us or against us” arrogance of the last eight years. And domestically maybe the left and right can work together to solve the country’s problems. Yes, maybe once the anti-Obama extremists see that having a liberal black Democrat in the White House didn’t result in the gates of Hell opening up and the Antichrist appearing among us, some of the vitriolic liberal hating of the past eight years can wither away.
And for their part liberals should be magnanimous in their victory. I’m all for national reconciliation, the whole Red-State/Blue-State thing has gotten really old. In my youth most friends and family who differed politically, no matter how vociferously, didn’t make it personal. I used to work for a couple of old ladies who lived across the street from each other. Every election they would go to the polls together and one would cast a straight Democratic ticket and the other a straight Republican ticket. And it didn’t stop them from being good friends until the day they died. I would be happy to see a return to those days. Once politics becomes about hating other people, it’s not politics anymore, it’s simply hatred.
And for context, the other three squandered opportunities I was talking about. The first would be the American victory at the end of World War Two. At the end of the war the USA was the greatest military power the world had ever seen, and had probably the best reputation a superpower ever had. We could have led the world into a new era of peace and prosperity, instead the chose the Cold War, the military industrial complex, and paranoia. Not to mention the immediate commencement of what can only be described as the same old same old colonial meddling, arrogance, and war.
When the Cold War ended the USA again once had an amazing opportunity to put militarism and expansionism behind us and again lead the world out of the colonial era. And again, we failed. Clinton kicked the Russians when they were down and killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqi babies just to pursue American domination. Not to mention the atrocities in Serbia and Waco. It was a damn shame, but for all the brains Clinton had, he signalled very early in his administration that the War Hawks in the Pentagon and their allies would be calling the shots.
Then Bush had his 9/11. The amount of good will toward the USA after 9/11 was amazing, there were pro-American demonstrations in Iran for God’s sake. Even the Taliban and Saddam came out for the USA. Bush could have reassured the nation and forged a new world order, instead he put on a white hat and started a quixotic quest to rid the world of evil. Seven years later: trillions of dollars are gone, the worst humanitarian crisis in the Middle east since 1948 has been created, whole countries in ruins, our enemies stronger than before and the USA more hated than before…and the perpetrator of 9/11 is still free. Not to mention Bush being the most unpopular president in the history of polling. I’d call that a squandered opportunity.
Now it’s Barack Obama’s turn. He’s been handed one of the biggest messes a president has faced since Roosevelt took office during the Great Depression or Lincoln had to sneak into Washington to avoid mobs out for his head. If anything, the situation Obama faces is in some ways worse than the ones they faced. Is Barack another Lincoln or Roosevelt? I don’t know, all I know is that he is a Senator who came out of nowhere to sweep into the White House on a populist surge. He wanted the job, and he got it despite all the odds. Since Obama has already done the impossible, maybe he can lead us out out of this mess.
Go Obama, go USA! And God Bless Everyone.
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