No one can doubt the enormity of the U.S. election. America chose to overcome its centuries of unfulfilled promises and elect one from those peoples whom Theodore Roosevelt called “hyphenated Americans.” More than that, it chose to overcome the decades-long preponderance of political melodrama that plagued the national discourse almost irreparably.
Obama was relentlessly ridiculed for his romanticism: “Let’s just get everybody together, let’s get unified, the sky will open, the light will come down, celestial choirs will be singing, and everyone will know we should do the right thing and the world will be perfect,” mocked Hillary Clinton at a Rhode Island campaign stop in that devilish way only she can.
Hillary Clinton did well to make her country comfortable with the idea of a female president. But, allow me to declare in no uncertain terms: Hillary Clinton is an aggressive, Faustian witch. She’s going to want all kinds of credit for really being a trooper and supporting Obama in the general election, but I refuse to give it to her.
My earliest political memory is of the 1996 presidential election, and being asked by my first grade teacher, Mrs. Haig, to choose between this old white guy and this other old white guy. My second earliest political memory is of the Bill Clinton impeachment process. I remember making a snowman out of cotton, buttons, and a tube sock in third grade arts and crafts, which expressed my support for the forces of impeachment in the way only a snowman can.
If there’s one thing I dislike, it’s shenanigans. And as far as that litmus test goes, George W. Bush didn’t quite put his best foot forward. The next eight years were nothing but shenanigans on top of shenanigans. May Zeus strike me cold dead if I lie – I thought the Bush presidency would never end. I thought that I would forever be burdened with the numbing cynicism of distrusting my government and disliking my countrymen. So I moved to Canada.
Obama is not perfect. He is not the fulfillment all our hopes and dreams. But he is proof that dreams are yet possible in my tattered post-Lewinsky America. In the much-maligned words of my new First Lady, “For the first time in my adult life, I am proud of my country because it feels like hope is finally making a comeback.”
The most massive change about this election is the overwhelming outpouring of support from all around the world, for both Obama and the United States in general. New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof calls this the “Obama dividend.” To me, 2008 will forever be encapsulated in the beautifully singular night when Indians, Kenyans, Iraqis, Indonesians, and Australians danced in the streets, tears streaming down their faces, heads pitched to the sky with shouts of heavenly joy.
This moved me more than anything. Regardless of whether you think Obama will be able to deliver on his promises (this column has argued he will not), the international support being shown right now means that it doesn’t matter. The world now has a commitment, an emotional stake, in the U.S. President. They will not readily disagree with him. In order for them to say he did something wrong, they will have to admit that they, too, were wrong, which is a massively inhuman thing to do. Unless everyone is talking about the world’s complete investment in new President of the United States, and the “Obama dividend,” they are missing the mark.
I’m not so sure the world wants this responsibility.
Ricky’s column appears every Monday. You can send him your mid-nineties election memories to firstname.lastname@example.org.