Wednesday, 5 November 2008
The American electorate gave Barack Obama a resounding victory in yesterday's presidential elections. Obama won by six percentage points in the popular vote, and he garnered at least 349 electoral votes (and probably will end up with 364, or perhaps even 375), far surpassing the 270 needed for election. His election is a repudiation of the extremes and the mismanagement of the Bush administration, but it is something more, much more. It is a statement of hope, and Obama himself is a symbol of the best that America can be. What does Barack Obama's victory mean? Here are some answers.
Obama's victory is a statement that racial divisions no longer matter to a majority of Americans, undoubtedly including many who voted for John McCain. Barack Obama is an African American, but he didn't run as the Black candidate, but rather as an almost post-racial candidate. Yes, there are still pockets of racism in the country, concentrated in, but not limited to, the Deep South, but the Civil War is finally over, and the promise of the Civil Rights movement has been fulfilled in a profound way. The country has moved from the mountaintop into the promised land.
Obama's victory is a signal that the U.S. is ready to resume its place as a member of the world community. No longer will the U.S. blatantly ignore the Geneva Conventions, abandon international treaties, consider itself above international law, or seek to bully allies and enemies alike. The U.S. will be a nation that leads by example, not by threat. Furthermore, the U.S. will again become an active player in the United Nations, the world's best hope for peace at present.
Obama's victory is a voice of hope to millions who have been left behind by the economic greed of the past couple of decades. Obama won't be able to wave a magic wand to solve the real problems in the economy, but he will put adults back in charge of the economy, not the children who for the past several years have viewed the markets as their own personal playgrounds (e.g., Enron and WorldCom).
Obama's victory means an end to the Bush doctrine of preemption. This immoral doctrine (how immoral it is is illustrated by the fact that Hitler used a pretended cross-border threat to launch his attack on Poland in 1939) violates international law and goes against the founding principles of the United Nations.
Obama's victory signals an end to an immoral war in Iraq. In keeping with the will of the majority of citizens of both the U.S. and Iraq, the troops will start coming home almost immediately, as they should have done years ago. Of course, they never should have been sent in the first place, as Obama and a very few other politicians argued in 2002 and 2003.
Obama's victory gives hope to the 47 million Americans who have no health insurance and thus little or no access to the health care that so many of us take for granted. His plan calls for 100% coverage, an absolutely essential goal. Obama is right: access to affordable health care is a right, not a privilege for a select percentage of Americans.
Obama's victory gives hope to the 12 million undocumented residents of the U.S. who work hard, pay their taxes, and make good neighbors. It is especially important for those who came to the U.S. as children with their parents and who have attended American schools for most or all of their lives, but who currently cannot work upon graduation from high school or even college.
Obama's victory will shut down the immoral prison at Guantanamo Bay and end the practices of extraordinary rendition and torture. U.S. citizens will never again be labeled enemy combatants. In fact, I hope that even citizens of foreign nations will never again be labeled enemy combatants. They will either be dealt with as prisoners of war or criminals and afforded due process to assess their guilt or innocence.
Obama's victory signals an end to the U.S. government spying on its own citizens. Electronic eavesdropping will once more be allowed only after a warrant has been obtained from a court.
Obama's victory puts in place a president who understands that he is under the law, not above the law. The practice of issuing signing statements that announce the president's intention to ignore the law he has just signed will end. The politicization of the Justice Department will end as well.
Obama's victory is a victory for science. The new administration will not substitute its politically or religiously based preferences for the considered judgment of government scientists. Global warming will be recognized as a problem caused by humans. The teaching of evolution will be promoted in the public schools. Stem cell research will advance in the U.S.
Obama's victory means that people around the world will once again respect the U.S. After eight years of insulting those who have been great friends on the international stage, after the arrogance that comes from too much power concentrated in the hands of amoral--or immoral--leaders, the world is rejoicing over Obama's election. It's not that they care that much about how Obama will handle the economy or what he will do to deal with the health care crisis. People around the world are celebrating because they, too, think of America as a land of hope and opportunity, a shining city on a hill, whose name has fallen into disrepute but is about to be renewed.
Perhaps most importantly, Obama's victory means that our long national nightmare is almost over. The past eight years have shown the world the worst that the U.S. has to offer: Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo Bay, renditions, preemptive war, the Hurricane Katrina response, spying on U.S. citizens, the war on science, etc. Now the nation is poised to show the best it has to offer, and all indications are that the world is more than receptive. The highest ideals of our nation will once again be the goal of government. Government will once again be of the people, by the people, and for the people. We will once more work together to forge a more perfect union. And for more and more people, the dream of being a nation where people are judged not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character will become a reality.