Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Credit Where Credit is Due

If you lined up all the presidential hopefuls of two years ago, and arranged them in order of ideology, McCain would have appeared right in the middle, and Obama so far to the left, he was in another room; segregated, as it were. Hilary Clinton would have been one spot from McCain, to his left, or at his side (now THAT would have been a crazy VP pick, after Obama had ignored her).

So I ought to feel that my horse didn't come in. Yet I don't. I am content. McCain's choice of Palin achieved the rare double of throwing his experience argument out of the window, whilst at the same time encouraging independent voters to walk away from him. And Hilary? That smug sense of entitlement was probably the most unattractive single thing in this two-year election affair. If there was a whiff of racism in the whole process, it came from the Clintons, not the Republicans. Enuff said.

Of course, there is no reason to go bananas. “This is the most meaningful thing that has ever happened”, says Oprah Winfrey. Calm down, dear, you've overdone the slimming pills, and you are looking at America and the world through a prism of slavery, disgruntlement, and affirmative action. You could only make a bigger twerp of yourself by getting onto a stage and shouting "Payback Time!"

And there is the small matter of Obama's complete lack of experience in running anything, apart from the Harvard Law Review. You have to be slightly worried about someone whose achievements have been to get other people to vote for him, without any track record of improving their lot in life. With this election, he has taken that "risen without trace" ability to its apogee, which means that we are no longer talking about him as a "community organiser" aka race-based careerist, but as a national figure who got the Hispanics, the Jews, the patrician New Englanders and plenty of po' white folk to vote for him.

Idle likes a bit of oratory, and admires those who attempt to make a silk purse from a sow's ear with their rhetoric, even in the manner of a Kinnock or a Galloway. But where they stopped far short of any meaningful achievement, Obama has succeeded. I reckon he did this because he didn't get angry. Passionate, certainly, but persuasively consensus-building rather than narrow and chippy. The Right might very well find his policies distastefully socialist - there was no manifesto, so we'll have to wait and see - but they clearly didn't get scared by him.

I doubt he'll be a very poor president, and he's been wise to manage expectations lower, starting with his acceptance speech last night - "it may take more than one term to get there" (Where? Why, THERE, of course!). An unspecified point on the map that has everything to do with mood and temperature, and nothing to do with a measurable improvement in the lives of American citizens.

There was nothing "Audacious" about his Hope, in truth. There were enough intelligent and high-achieving blacks in the Republican ranks, notably Rice and Powell, to suggest that the way was clear for an attempt at the summit. The Democrats' problem was they always seemed to promote black racist firebrands or dodgy pastors like Jesse Jackson. The history of black mayors in Democrat cities was often depressingly sub-Saharan with tales of embezzlement, sexual voraciousness and contempt for the voter. They needed to find someone of above-average intelligence with a credible message for all America, and to produce him when the incumbent party was most vulnerable. This, they achieved. They didn't stop to think much about policy, it seems, which may be no bad thing. The last lot demonstrated that arriving in the White House with too long a wish-list doesn't necessarily make for good government.

It is undoubtedly something, for a black guy with a young family to get the keys to the motor after 43 middle-aged white men have had them. But we only care about his competence, and everyone knows he'll be an improvement on the last middle-aged white man.


lilith said...

Thoughtful post Idle. Palin was a disaster. Obama is like Blair, he brings hope. My hope is that he isn't like Blair, a compulsive liar and narcissist.

idle said...

Amen to that, lil. Astonishingly, some of the talking heads on tv studio sofas in America are talking about Palin 2012. And doing so with a straight face.

Thud said...

I'm afraid I don't feel he is an improvement on president Bush....I think he will without doubt make even Carter seem a decent choice.As for palin...Myself and many others think she has an important part to play in Americas future.

rvi in puzzled mode said...

Re Oprah; there were mutterings of her being appointed as Ambassador to the Court of St James (or, as we proles know it, Britain). WHY? Is it cos she's black? What diplomatic skills would she bring to the job?

I am unable to make up my mind whether this would be a "good thing" or a total insult to the UK and its people and the end of the now not so special relationship. May be ok so long as she leaves Dr Phil and the young fellow who does all that room redesigning at home.

killemallletgodsortemout said...

If you look very carefully at the very happy, Obama-supporting blacks on the TV, you can see the chips falling from their shoulders.

No, I couldn't, either.

God help America. They liked Blair? They got him, in sweep's clothing.

idle said...


Thud - the important part Palin has to play in America's future is as a warning to the GOP that it must get a grip of itself over the next couple of years and produce some credible candidates for high office, rather than go through the agonies that the Dems endured before and after Clinton. I defend the right of Alaskans to elect whoever they want, but it does not follow that a sane presidential candidate puts her on the ticket as veep.

rvi, I read that too. The reason she would be a poor choice is that her pay grade, as a billionaire celeb, is so far above a diplomat's. She would turn the normal relationship between ambassador and host country almost completely on its head. The thought of poor, starstruck British ministers and civil servants fawning and gurning in front of the woman is too awful to contemplate.

Killem, I agree that Obama has a touch of the Blair about him, but I suspect that it is, at this stage, no more than a similarity of confident oratory.

I'm going to give him a few months before passing judgement. America is not an instinctively socialist country, as all Western European countries are, so he is going to have to tread carefully. But he's not a confection, he's got a brain. I have hope.

Thud said...

Idle...hope and change Io trust... tm. obama!

Tuscan Tony said...

Well pt, idle. Re his as-yet unstated "plans", he has a lot less ability to do things than say a power-crazed loon like theUK incumbent, so I suspect he won't change the direction of the ship that quickly. I heard him being described as a white Ronald Reagan, a point which I had already considered, in fact.

Most of a leader's job is to motivate and orate, which he does in spades, if I may put it like that.

Anonymous said...

Another new broom with a few extra's,he's said nothing just like Blair,he's got the peoples hopes up,a new messiah,no just another politico,time to talk about him will be next year when he's in charge,I hope Iam wrong just for the people of the USA sake and he does well,I won't hold my breath

idle said...

Tuscan, I am reading that fine biography of Reagan, "Dutch" by Edmund Morris.

Can't say I've noticed any similarities with The One yet. But at 800 pages, there is still time.

Anon - agreed. Judge him next year.

yank said...

TT:.. a white Ronald Regan? I did not know Ronnie was of tinged hue. You learn something every day!

Anonymous said...

Turns out despite all the hoopla about millions of new voters, the turnout was the same as 2004 when the choice was no better and perhaps even worse. Further, that if McCain -- the Democrats' favorite Republican -- had been more popular with conservatives he might have won.

Greybeard said...

From "5 Myths About an Election of Mythic Proportions"...

"5. McCain made a huge mistake in picking Sarah Palin.... For skittish conservatives looking for more evidence that McCain understood their needs and concerns, Palin did the trick. It's hard to imagine conservatives rallying to McCain -- even to the relatively limited extent that they did -- without Palin on the ticket. And without the base, McCain's loss could have been far worse."

And I couldn't agree more.
I had NO intention to vote for "democrat lite" McCain until he chose Palin as his running mate.
Most of the conservative base were gonna stay home.
She saved his bacon.