It’s over. The election, that is. I have spent the last 2 weeks “recovering,” by which I mean further putting off all of the things that I put off to do after November 4.
It was certainly an interesting ride. I spent my election day waking up at 6am and doing visibility in North Berkeley for NO on 8, the campaign to maintain the rights of same-sex couples in California, that unfortunately ultimately passed (more on that later).
I also was lucky enough to work for the Barack Obama campaign (spoiler: we won this one) in Reno, Nevada. I’m ashamed to say it was the first and last thing I did for the Obama campaign (which I should note that I fully and passionately support, regardless of my earlier work for Hillary), but I was glad to be a part of it nonetheless.
It has been said many times, most no doubt better than it will be here, but that Barack Obama will be president is an incredibly groundbreaking feat. In Europe, the United States is often thought to be a land still filled with racism and hatred (granted, much of this is probably true, but not to the extent believed). Great Britain, Ireland, Turkey, Finland, and others in Europe have all had women Heads of State, so having a woman president or vice president would not have been a huge deal for them (not to say that it wouldn’t have been a good thing). But a minority, a man who a little over 40 years ago may not have had the right to vote or marry a white woman? That is something that even Europe, in many ways proud of its progressive thinking, cannot claim to have had. For the first time in a long time, the United States is leading the world in a revolutionary and positive way, in overwhelmingly choosing to overlook racial divides to elect a black man as president. [Where is Europe’s Obama? this interesting BBC article asks] It’s a wake-up call for a part of the world that has gotten rather fond of hating and looking down upon us for the last 8-odd years.
Much is promised by Barack Obama, but he cannot, of course, perform miracles. He will not in his (hopefully) eight years, solve global warming. He will not untangle the US from the Middle East. He will not eliminate poverty, or world hunger, or racist tensions. He is one man who will direct American foreign and domestic policy, and many of his hands are tied up in the fact that much of what he will be doing is cleaning up after the Bush administration. He could not have come at a better time.
I went to a talk by a panel of polisci professors at my school answering the question “what will Obama change about American foreign policy.” The three of them differed on several things, namely, what to do about Iraq and the Israel-Palestine conflict, but what they could agree on is that the most important thing that Obama will bring to American foreign policy is not change itself but the concept and promise of change. That is, if foreign leaders and people think the United States is going to change dramatically, they will start treating it differently, and that is what actually could begin to facilitate the change necesary. They will begin to stop thinking of us as imperialists, bullies, etc, and even if we maintain many of the same policies (most of which are too old and embedded to be changed), good things will happen.
So I am excited, as you can probably tell. There are certainly still far too many racists in this country, as any visit to a white supremacist or conservative message board will tell you. But Obama’s election is a new American revolution, and I am incredibly excited to be a part of it.