Filed under: Democracy | Tags: Afghanistan, Barack Obama, Election America 2008, electoral politics, Iraq, Justice Potter Stewart, Neoliberalism, The Simpsons
In one of his more memorable lines, Mr. Burns, while looking upon Marge Simpson’s portrait of himself, revises Justice Potter Stewart’s infamous ‘I know it when I see it’ opinion on obscenity: ‘You know, I’m no art critic, but I know what I hate. And…I don’t hate this’.
After Obama’s resounding, indeed, dominant, victory last night, America made plain, with big, broad strokes, what they hate. It was a rejection of almost thirty years of neoliberal policies that have paupered the economy, mired the nation in an unwinnable and costly war, increased and polarized class and racial divisions while blatantly failing to protect its citizenry against anything from hurricaines to recession. I have remained cynical of Obama throughout the election, despite my tacit support of him, because he is poised to betray the progresive votes the Democrats have historically taken for granted and pursue the hawkish, poisonous tack Blue presidents have felt compelled to take in order to show their quality. But I don’t hate Obama, and that’s comforting somehow.
It’s hard to hate a man who is undeniably responsible for a 10-million-strong increase in votes, good for 64 percent. More than that, CNN reported that 72 percent of first-time voters voted for change. The symbolic value of Obama in the White House, not only its resonance for American race relations but for the reverberating rejection of neoconservative ideology, is encouraging. John McCain, the aging, jerky relic of the Republican party, has been set adrift, cast away from a nation that sees through his palour as if for the first time.
The cautionary message in this election is that Ralph Nader and the Green Party’s Cynthia McKinney received less than 1% of the electorate; which indicates to me that while the American public knows what it hates, it has not yet turned its disapproval into a positive program for change. America has voted for change, but it has not demanded it. Now that progressives everywhere have lobbied Obama into the White House, do they still have the stamina (and more importantly, the money) to hold his feet to the fire? Obama promises to take his country out of the calamity that is Iraq, but to increase troop numbers in the equally shambolic Afghanistan. Is this the democratic solution to the Middle East?
I must admit, Obama-rama has stirred me, as it has stirred a nation. But the important thing to remember about democracy is that it does not start and stop on election day. If now is the time, then America must look within to decide not only what it hates, but why. Don’t settle for a softer, more charismatic version of the same toxic politics. Demand the change you voted for.