Friday, 7 November 2008

A change I'd like to believe in

CHANGE is the watchword, and boy have we got a change coming on.
Not just because we’re about to have the first black US president. Barack Obama may be in one sense the first “person of colour” to hold the office, but he is also a person of all colours and of none.
Not just because his victory was so sweeping it sweeps away the sense of dirt and corruption that until this week still hung over from the “lost chads” election of 2000.
Not just because the worst president in over a century is about to be replaced by a man who shows every sign of being the best in at least that long.
And not just because the Democrats may just have struck a life-preserving blow on behalf of democracy itself. Which may or may not be a very good thing.
We have become used over many years to American being not just the world’s policeman, the world’s bully, but also the big brake on world progress. And that, if Obama fulfils his huge promise, could be about to change. Big-time.
President Nicolas Sarkozy of France is centre-right, with the emphasis on the right. Ditto Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi. Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats are the Tories of Germany. The Conservatives are in power in Canada.
Overall, Obama will be the furthest left-leaning leader of any country in the so-called G8 group of the world’s major industrialised democracies. And that’s before the Tories win the next UK election.
While much of the world is moving worryingly to the right, we might have to start looking to the USA as a beacon of reason and decency. How weird is that?
Before we get too carried away on the glorious wave of Obamamania, though, a couple of warnings.
One is to recall the national and international euphoria that greeted John F Kennedy’s election in 1960.
In the words of one dissenter: “Kennedy was too good-looking, too glamorous. A man who looked like that could get away with anything. That’s why I wanted ugly Dick Nixon to win.”
Then there’s the view expressed, perversely on the face of it, by my friend Simon. He’s the only person I know who wanted McCain to win – and it wasn’t because he doesn’t like Obama.
In his view, Bush is leaving the US economy in such a calamitous state that it’s bound to crash and burn whoever is in charge. And he reckons whichever party was in charge for the next four years would be finished for a generation by the inevitable disaster to come.
I do hope you’re wrong, Simon – though I can see the sense in that view.
The more optimistic one is that the shrinking of US waistlines, gas-tanks and military operations will make the world a safer and better place. And that it can be accomplished by charismatic leadership good enough and strong enough to maintain popular support.


ON this glad day, I’d just like to say a word for the gallant losers. John McCain, who is nothing if not gallant. And Sarah Palin, who’s a loser.
She is also, let’s admit it, very very funny. All the more so because she doesn’t mean to be.
Now we can enjoy her act in safety, knowing that a woman who makes Maggie Thatcher look like a pinko and George Dubya Bush an intellectual is not going to be one heartbeat away from ruling the world. Phew.

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