Confessions of someone who does know better

Wednesday, 28th February 2007 at 3:05 UTC 1 comment

I’ve been around politics long enough to know that any candidate in an election who looks really worth supporting is either unlikely to win, or likely to be a big disappointment, one way or another. So its with some sense of embarrassment that I have to own up to my latest political ‘crush’, and he isn’t even running in a UK election.

The failed dreams that come to mind fit various categories. Those that make it into whatever level of power they may be seeking either make a complete fool of themselves. I don’t need to remind you of the nightmare that is (or perhaps, was) George Galloway.

Others will prove incapable of implementing real change. Most Green Councillors in the UK have ended up this way, failing to substantially change their town or city, often incapable of preventing the arrival of damaging multinationals or of driving down car usage. On the international scene, perhaps Brazil’s president Lula fit this category nicely; so many hope shattered in the reality of a man who talks left only to walk straight into the arms of the IMF and G8.

Others will do what they say in a way that makes you want to cry. Hugo Chavez has sought and received from his Congress something best described as an 18-month enabling act that will allow him to rule by diktat in a way some leaders only ever dream about. A man once regarded as a democratic breath of fresh air in a land which could so easily be over-run by America in search of new oil is now acting like little more than a dictator. Its not just what you do, its how you do it, and Chavez’ methods have made me very wary of giving him any further support.

So I guess by now, having seen so many promising figures fail in most or all of their agendas, I should have learnt the lesson: stop putting faith in these wonderful looking people. Get over it: no one who really will change things will ever get elected. The old saying comes to mind: “if voting changed anything they’d ban it”.

I had a chat on MSN a few weeks ago with a close friend. I admitted to having my eye on a candidate in an election in a different country. His answer was fairly simple: does this person stand a chance of winning and would they really change things. The answer to the first is, I believe, yes. The answer to the second is more complicated. He then said something that amused and horrified me. Help, my friends know me too well! “Is the person in question by any chance Barrack Obama?”

A couple of days earlier, the news had broken that a man none of us Brits had previously heard of had announced his decision to stand. The Guardian went to great lengths to try and explain him in a feature article in the G2 pull-out (go read it). Somehow, here’s someone who inspires me to think that maybe he can make the world a better place, and that he could do that after winning the most powerful political title on Earth. Well, call me naive, but the guy has a lot going for him.

His message is definitely not all good. We’ve heard dictators talk about uniting their nation, and so does Barack. That isn’t to say he’s automatically bad, just that we should be aware of this problem. He is massively anti-war in a way almost no other democrat can claim to be. Hilary just can’t beat him on this one. He’s not without his complications either: Barack Hussein Obama sounds a lot like a cross between Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Laden, and Fox have tried to claim that he attended a madrasa. But so far, such attempts to smear him have been discarded as either silly (the name) or false (the madrasa story).

Borrowing a few points from Gary Younges article (linked above): Obama wasn’t famous until he became a politician, so no Schwarzenegger tricks here. His famous friends are definitely worth having, including George Soros and Halle Berry. His backing by Steven Spielberg is worth noting though, as this puts him alongside liberals who don’t support the Palestinian struggle, but then, name a US presidential candidate who does. And people do know what he’s got to say: his book “Audacity of Hope” (on my reading list) topped the Amazon bestseller list at Christmas.

There are two other things I’d like to draw attention to. The first is Obama’s speach making ability. His democratic convention address in 2004 is worth a read, as is his announcement of his candidacy. Both show that he is elloquent. Not everything, not always a positive, but in his case, it should be a big bonus. In a land where standing ovations are counted as the score that marks quality of speech delivery, he scores high every time. If I was in America right now, I’d be looking to go hear him, mostly just for the experience.

The second I’d like to comment on is his main opponent, and the identity game being played between them. Don’t get me wrong, I support women’s liberation, but what Hilary could do for women’s empowerment, Barack could do 10 times over for black empowerment. Hilary makes me worried: people see her as a woman in a man’s world. I first became aware of politics when British Prime Minister was a man in a woman’s body; a totally false victory that did nothing for female leadership and lots for the argument that women should become just like men in order to feel equal.

Hilary is rich, she has huge backing, and she has a history of upper-class condescension Obama has yet to be in a position to truly engage in. Sure, Obama isn’t poor, and has big bucks behind him, but Hilary will go down better with the military and with the oil companies; I’d rather have someone from a minority grouping without those backers. Questions of specific racial minorities aside, Obama just feels more able to represent working black people than Hilary seems able to represent working women.

At the end of the day, while I may have joined two Facebook groups in support of Obama, I recognise that he may well continue some unjust policies. He may turn out to be a Tony Blair, or a Lula. Hopefully he won’t turn out to be a Galloway. But his raw honesty and real anti-war credentials alongside his talk of being his brother or his sisters keeper inspire me to think that maybe, just maybe, he could make America a bearable place to live for millions of those who live impoverished lives in the rich nation on Earth. I accept he has faults, but I think we should celebrate the moment when someone is within range of the Whitehouse who can stand and declare

“If there’s a child on the south side of Chicago who can’t read, that matters to me, even if it’s not my child. If there’s a senior citizen somewhere who can’t pay for her prescription and has to choose between medicine and the rent, that makes my life poorer, even if it’s not my grandmother. If there’s an Arab American family being rounded up without benefit of an attorney or due process, that threatens my civil liberties.”

It matters to me anyhow, even if people think I’m a bit deluded about it.


Entry filed under: Barack Obama, Elections, Politics.

Making space for the little things Whose nuclear obsession?

1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Meeting John « Graham’s Grumbles  |  Friday, 16th March 2007 at 23:01 UTC

    […] I really hope that he can get the 44 MP signatures required to put his name on the ballot, and that there is a real election process followed by a period of reflection on the issues.  I’d be pretty loath to get involved in the campaign, there being better uses of my time, but the message this one man could send to the heart of the establishment could be enormous, and I agree with most of his policies.  I guess his is a similar cause to Barack Obama, who I feel perhaps slightly more excited about. […]


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