Thursday, May 22, 2008
The Obama Effect on Progressive Politics
Media institutions are baffled by the character in question, his ideology or message of unifying a sharply divided country since 2001. On Thursday 8 May last, the Senator signalled his intention of reviving America’s flagging democratic credentials when he told CCN Wolf Blitz that, “People want to see America lead the world. At the moment we are spending billions fighting two wars and building up other countries rather than investing in education, health, the economy and the country as a whole.”
Obama’s factual assessment of the problems of his country and the global realities of our time, demonstrates his capacity for understanding the value of change in quality, political leadership rather than the messianic drivel which sections of the media have been spewing during his campaign to change the status quo or `business as usual politics’.
From Iowa to North Carolina and Indiana, the Senator has showed the uncanny ability to empower citizens to trust (again) the system of Government, whilst renewing their faith in the `American Dream’. Critics who dwell on the colour-divide are suspicious that their own excesses will expose their fault-line in transformational politics especially for the good of the USA. The fact is, Obama’s style may not fit the conventional mode of electioneering, but his politics is surely what is needed to stem the tide of race hate, religious strife and cultural bigotry, threatening to consume human civilisation.
Citizens who are both products and factors of racism and ideological demagoguery are conscious that genuine leadership is not built on division, hysteria and self-aggrandisement, since these vices can turn-off the most inspired and confident electorate.
Far from glorifying the definitive persona, Obama’s campaign has portrayed the genuine face of politics, as a contest of ideas (the message) versus the practicalities of decision-making (policy objectives). Much of these could be found on his website even though some, in an effort to confuse the message of hope with renewal, have derided his `inexperience’, without understanding that the logic of experience is based on access to opportunities, as well as equal entrée to the position of leadership. Recent history is replete with examples of leaders such as South Africa’s, Nelson Mandela (first generation) and Britain’s Tony Blair (second generation) who initially, didn’t possess the `so-called statesmanlike' experience, and even though they were different personalities (in the case of Mandela and Blair), they were credited for nationalism, resoluteness, charisma and demonstrative leadership.
CNN’s commentator, Jack Cafferty, put it succinctly when he said this about Obama. “He has the attributes of leadership, intelligence. He is astute, confident, and knowledgeable and is capable of winning the Democratic Nomination for the Presidency.” Interestingly, Cafferty’s judgement was shared by Republicans too, though with `tongue-in-cheek.
In his bestselling political autobiography, The AUDACITY of HOPE, Senator Obama, wrote that “I think America has more than been a force for good than ill in the world. I reject a politics that is based solely on racial identify, gender identity, equal orientation, or victimhood generally.” In essence this encompasses the ideals of Obama and a reflection of being a product as well as a factor of the `American Dream’. So, how can the Senator’s brand of politics galvanise the progressive forces the world over, for good?
First, he is first real politician of this century who believes and acts according to his values while empathising with others. Second, it is rare to see a relatively young politician, capable of commanding respect across generations, professions, races, cultures, gender and other persuasions. Third, it is the first time in a Western democracy has there been a black person, given almost unfettered access to compete for the high stakes of national office – the Presidency.
Fourth, it is the first time that such a candidate has influenced masses of people to invest their time, money and other resources into electing a candidate they feel can make a real difference to the lives of millions. Fifth, it is quite surreal that a Democratic Party has been forced to acknowledge that not only change is inevitable, but that change is warranted.
Undeniably, in the modern world of governance, Senator Obama will be regarded as the embodiment of Progressive Politics, one that is based on political unity, economic equality, social harmony, cultural tolerance and ideological pluralism. His brand of politics is a (living) philosophy that few politicians of his generation will be able to fathom, more so, emulate, for a long time.