Monday, 3 November 2008


Tomorrow the citizens of the United States go to the polls in one of the most important elections in their history. And, if the pre-election opinion is anything to go by, Barack Obama will soon be that country's first black president. More than that, though, if he is elected, he will be bringing a new kind of governance onto the American and the world stage, one that is sorely needed.

I've said before that my money is on Obama for President, not just because of his political focus, charismatic style, obvious intelligence, down-to-earth approach to some of the most complex issues, demonstrably democratic beliefs, and thoughtful handling of the global financial crisis, but also because he has managed to capture the imagination of the American people - and, indeed, the world - in a way we haven't seen in a generation.
With an awesome understanding of social networking, his campaign has tapped into internet-based communications in a way that has changed the face of campaigning forever, bringing his country's notoriously apathetic youth enthusiastically into the election process. On the other side of the coin, he's been out there at rallies and talking face-to-face with his constituents in the old-fashioned way, even going out for "trick or treat" with his daughters on Halloween last Friday.

And he has consistently called for unity and tolerance across racial, religious and gender lines, even in the face of some pretty vicious personal attacks.

In case anyone hasn't been taking note, this is a man of the people; the face of 21st century democracy.
And it ain't just smoke and mirrors; the policies behind the man are ones that anyone would be proud to vote for. For example:
  • He has opposed the illegal war in Iraq from the start and, should he be elected, will immediately begin working with advisors to bring it to an end in a responsible way. In case anyone has forgotten, the war is illegal because it was undertaken pre-emptively and unilaterally, in violation of UN resolutions and international law.
  • He has rightly called the current administration and the Republican Party on the laissez faire policies that have led directly to the current global financial meltdown, and he has explained the implications of the crisis to ordinary people in a clear and understandable way. He also took a considered approach to the whole situation as it developed, which is much more than we can say for his rival, John McCain. And, with so much at stake, wouldn't you want such an important world leader to take a considered approach rather than shooting from the hip?
  • He has a solid plan in place to deal with the financial crisis which, amongst other things, will involve cutting taxes for working people and implementing an aggressive job-creation programme. I think both the US and the world at large will need a whole lot more than that, but it's a good start.
  • He has committed to increasing energy efficiency, investing in alternative energy sources, and creating 5 million new "green" jobs in the US. You may recall that the US has, to date, steadfastly refused to sign the Kyoto Protocol, which sets defined emissions reduction targets for all signatories.
  • He opted to run his campaign without government funding and without using lobbyists, focusing instead on raising the money he needed from ordinary people who believe in his policies.
  • He has created a database by means of which the public can track federal contracts, narrowing the margin for bribery and corruption significantly.
  • His healthcare plan will provide accessible, affordable coverage for all US citizens, and he plans to pump billions of dollars into the worldwide fight against HIV/Aids.
  • He supports the right to choice on the abortion issue, as well as the right of gay and lesbian couples to marry.
  • He supports religious tolerance, something which is not only desperately needed in the US and across the world, but which will also serve to open up US dialogue with non-Christian countries.
  • He supports strong and responsible democracy in Africa and, because of his African heritage, will be in a better position than his predecessors to call for it.
  • And, as Mark Danner puts it in this week's Mail and Guardian, he offers a "politics of hope (that) is an antidote to the unspoken shame of US politics".
I'm not a great TV fan, but I've had a satellite dish installed so that I can watch the progress of this election closely. After all, we're watching history in the making.
You go, Barack!
UPDATE (4 November 2008, 13:37 CAT):

An Obama supporter wearing a T-shirt designed locally and emblazoned with the words, "If Obama loses, I'm leaving the planet."
My thoughts exactly!
Click to enlarge

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