So yes, Obama won. Not much of a surprise, though I won’t claim that I was entirely sure. And I can’t deny that I’m much happier that he won instead of McCain. And I also can’t deny that this is an important moment in history, and that it will have an effect on the future. But how important is it, really – outside of what the media have been telling us?
Is it important because he’s black? Colin Powell and Condoleeza Rice, to name but two individuals, were also black – I’m not sure that did anyone any good. Granted, though, President is a different position: this time the black guy is the boss. Culturally, maybe this will change a few things. Hell, maybe a lot of things. Given the history of the United States, the election of a black man to the Presidency does mean something. The racists have been shown what America stands for. That’s true.
But does anyone really think that in today’s economic and political system race or gender plays a part? (Many people were overjoyed when a woman was elected Chancellor in Germany, and she’s practically the Antichrist.) Do you think the people with the real power – the various corporations that backed Obama more than they did McCain – care about that? What they want is a representative, and apparently they were quite certain that they were getting just that. Many of the major conservative newspapers backed Obama, saying that his policies would be considerably more conservative than people expected. Bush was their representative, now it’s Obama. Yes, a difference in style, but the same people are pulling the strings.
(According to the polls people mostly voted because not because of race – yay – but because of the economy and because of the wars. But Obama has taken back most of what he said about the wars, and he is in total agreement with McCain on the bailout and wiretapping. Doesn’t this alarm anyone?)
Everyone is happy to be rid of Bush, and not to have to endure McCain/Palin. I understand that – hey, I live on this planet too, and I wouldn’t like Sarah Palin to blow it up in an attempt to kill some Evil Russians. In that regard, the American people have shown that they are far more progressive than the media have been telling us. And yay for that! I don’t want to say that this moment means nothing. That would be grossly unfair: it means that Americans have said a loud and resounding NO to the imperialist policies of George Bush and the system that he represents.
And yes, Obama will be better than Bush.
But a lesser of two evils is still an evil. After eight years of Bush, people think fondly of the Clinton years – but Clinton also waged illegal wars, killing thousands of civilians and causing problems that will continue for decades. Hell, he also bombed Iraq every now and then. The Democrats may be slightly less insane than the Republicans, but they are still a party that works for the capitalist elite – and those guys tend to like wars, because wars make them money. Their problem with Bush is only how badly he fought his wars, not that he fought them at all.
So, let’s talk about change. What is Obama going to change? A year from now, where will we be?
Will Iraq still be occupied?
What about Afghanistan?
Will wiretapping cease?
Will Obama outlaw torture?
Will he close down Guantanamo Bay and all the other concentration camps?
Will he remove all those laws that have turned America into a police state?
Will he do anything to truly improve living conditions for ordinary working people?
I suppose we will see. But I fear that if he does not do any – or very few – of these things, people won’t rise up in protest. Either they’ll make excuses for him, or they will ignore the situation because, after all, it’s not Bush. And some, I suppose, will simply be disappointed and give up. But just because, in Lewis Black’s words, the only difference between the Democrats and the Republicans is that the Democrats suck and the Republicans blow, that does not mean that change is not possible. But profound change cannot come from within a party dedicated to maintaining the (rather unpleasant to the majority of humans) status quo.
Remember how happy everyone was when Nancy Pelosi became Speaker of the House? Where’s the impeachment? Where’s a resolution to stop the Iraq war? Where is the end of torture or wiretapping? The Democrats could have kicked George Bush’s ass. They could have saved thousands of lives on both sides. And what did they do? What did they change? Nothing.
Sometimes you need to break with the old. That’s why people voted for Obama. I don’t think they will get what they wanted – but at least now we know where everyone stands. And that’s good to know.
P.S. I fully realize that people are happy. And they have the right to be happy. This is a victory – against Bush and all that he represents. But the charisma of a leader does not guarantee an economic and military policy that is just or progressive, even if that’s the language he uses. I can understand just how much everyone wants to believe that everything will be all right. It’s easy, terribly easy to fall for that, to join with enthusiasm in proclaiming this a new age. The results of this election are important and meaningful. But the political realities will continue.