After living through the last eight wasted years in America–writing in outrage for seven of them–it’s hard to overstate the elation I share with progressives, humanists and defenders of rationality worldwide.Obama has won the American Presidency, and we are clearly in uncharted political territory. While giving credit to John McCain for his gracious concession speech, we must be glad that the Republican fear and slime campaign against Obama is over. It’s time to tally up the ways he will change the world:
- He is a top-level member of the educated elite, and for this we should rejoice. His tack-sharp mind is exactly what will be required to understand and fix the mess left by his predecessor.
- With his multiracial heritage, Obama better represents the 75% of the world which is non-white. Much as we wish all vestiges of racism were gone, it will be easier now for Asians, Africans, and other non-European cultures to accept that a multi-racial American president will address their concerns with just international policy. As someone who is half European, he also speaks for white people.
- Obama has a chance to restore America’s image as a beacon of freedom tempered with fairness, and an emphasis on human happiness, aid, and harm-reduction.
- An Obama administration would be far less likely than Bush, for example, to tie foreign aid to religion-based abstinence-only programs which have barred the distribution of condoms to the poorest, sickest nations.
- Obama has pledged to address the climate crisis and promote renewable energy, which can also strongly revitalize the global economy. He has discussed implementing some form of carbon cap and trade legislation, which would bring the U.S. (as the second largest carbon emitter) in line with both existing international treaties such as the Kyoto protocol and the overwhelming recommendations of scientists.
- Obama will restore the primacy of diplomacy, which should always dominate U.S. foreign policy. He has pledged to use force when necessary, but given the cost, he would take this option only as a last resort.
- He will take the fight directly to Al-Qaeda, instead of pursuing endless neo-con war profiteering.
- He has signalled a willingness to rethink the “War on Drugs.” This is a no-brainer since disproportionate numbers of our highest-in-the-world prison population are people of color put there by a system more focused on punishment than rehabilitation.
- Obama represents the ultimate symbol and fact of racial healing and reconciliation, which has the ability to finally lay to rest 400 years of U.S. repression of African American people. The symbolism alone has the promise of reshaping African neighborhoods and communities throughout America. It gives every black child the real hope that they can accomplish anything. This self-esteem boost will have generational ramifications.
- Obama will have the opportunity to appoint one if not two Supreme Court justices. This will be a legacy that will affect U.S. law (particularly abortion rights, gay rights, and other social policy) for decades.
The future no doubt holds many surprises. Obama will be tested and challenged in unspeakably difficult ways. We are out of money and face dire threats from many corners. But despite the undeniable decline of U.S. prominence over the past few decades, in many ways the American president holds a global constituency. For the past eight years, billions have watched in horror as George W. Bush has dragged their hopes and dreams of what America used to represent into the ground. It was with near universal dread that the world anticipated four more years along the same plummeting trajectory. Now, that potential–that long nightmare–is finally coming to a close.
From every state in the union, every corner of the globe–Kenya, Australia, Europe and beyond, tears of joy are flowing this night. Obama is the closest thing we’ve ever had to a world president with a mandate. The only people who are not celebrating this momentous and historic occasion are those who still cling and grasp for the faded glories of fanatical nationalism, unprincipled authority, so-called purity, and those hide-bound by their traditions.
For the rest of us, it is a new dawn.