I couldn’t bring myself to stay up to the early hours to watch Barack Obama sweep to victory last night. For once I was with Daily Mail in expecting the election to descend into chaos, as previous presidential elections have done. People, especially poorer people and those from minority communities, had to queue for hours to vote and it looked like they’d run out of ballot papers.
It’s bizarre that the world’s first and only democratic superpower, a country dedicated to spreading democracy around the globe, cannot be trusted to organise an election. Fortunately, the scale of Obama’s victory has overcome all of this nonsense and America has, at last, a president whose victory cannot be disputed.
So farewell to George Bush, who failed everyone. Bush supporters had such high hopes eight years ago, believing that he would lead the USA to some kind of Conservative utopia. A heady Thatcherite mix of free markets and social conservatism would see abortion banned, gays put back in the closet and creationism taught as fact in every school. Fortunately for America, he failed on this.
Unfortunately for America, he also proved that markets need to be regulated and that while tyrants need to be toppled from time to time, if you’re serious about spreading democracy your own behaviour should be beyond reproach.
The change Obama promises is sometimes hard to define. His being the first black president is incredibly symbolic, given that blacks fighting for civil rights were being lynched less than fifty years ago. But that novelty will (hopefully) wear off quickly.
Many commentators point to current crises and say Obama’s hands are tied, but the opposite should be the case. Obama has a mandate for radical change and the bigger the crises, the more radical the solutions he may champion.
Obama can learn from New Labour too. Here people felt promises of change had been reneged upon as Labour was timid and too willing to compromise once in power. If bold words are not followed through with bold actions, people quickly become disenchanted. Let’s hope Obama has the balls to be bold.