The Quiet Life

Obama’s victory, though certainly representative of change, is valuable for another reason — one which may be more pertinent to those of us outside of the American administration.

I’d like to thank Andrew Sullivan for posting this video that has been circulating the web. In it, Obama manages to establish himself as one of the more charismatic figures in this election, and also capitalizes on his victory to perhaps sway some of the other states. But he also demonstrates something far, far more important.

 

 

Though indeed Obama asserts his role in history as the first black man to make a splash in the elections, he also demonstrates his capacity to foresee a successful run as President. During the speech, Obama makes clear that he is going to obey the desire of the American public — and the world en masse — for a quiet political sphere. This encompasses everything from global politics straight through to the everyday buzz seen in the news concerning politicians.

He begins by demonstrating that he can be polite to the people. His entire composure is far more humble than Bush’s ever was — quotidian garb or otherwise! Straight away, he gives thanks to the people, and points out that they were the ones who caused the event. Though this is nothing new — what President doesn’t try to pet the nation’s ego? — his bearing seems genuine, not just political. By emphasizing the role of the public, he manages to underplay his own role, allowing him to maintain a calm, wise presence.

And his policy follows suit. It goes from overt and international (ending the war in Iraq) to subtle and media-oriented (ending the Blue-Red war). Should he accomplish these two acts, America will indubitably fade into the background. After all, name a single issue which captured as many headlines as either of these during Bush’s reign… you won’t find many! The greatest physical promise he makes is that he will implement a public health care system. Compare this to Bush’s resume (War on Terror, supporting torture, vetoes of everything under the Sun), and it would seem that Obama is setting his sights on remaining behind the scenes, instead of dominating them. And though he clearly would be making the history books should he win the election, even this was underplayed in his speech; If he has his wish, the public will note the accomplishment without a single hint on his part.

So what’s left? A Clinton-esque scandal? Barring something major like an assassination, there seems little that Obama could do to one-up even Clinton on the scale of major controversies! And that, more than anything else, is what Obama’s message speaks of: Avoiding controversies. Though he cuts a powerful image as he declares the battle between Red and Blue States obsolete, his Presidency would be one of a powerful silence when compared to the Neoconservative reign of terror.

Will this save America from economic recession? Perhaps not; Having a socially-oriented set of policies when your nation is struggling economically is rarely a solid idea. But whether America sinks or floats, Obama will begin rebuilding the American image on a global scale, as well as treating wounds between the people and their politicians. His victory in Iowa may be remembered as the starting point of a historic campaign, but in the global consciousness, here’s hoping it’s remembered as the starting point of a much-needed healing process — and a quiet one, at that!

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3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Stephen
    Jan 05, 2008 @ 19:12:12

    Good post! I think that’s exactly the Obama narrative: vote for me to put an end to the bitter partisanship of the Clinton and Bush II years.

    It’s worrisome that the next President may be looking at a recession. Among his other failures, Bush has run American into the ground economically. According to Andrew Sullivan, Bush has added $32 trillion to the national debt. Whoever inherits that mess is going to be associated with all the misery that results from Bush’s war-mongering profligacy.

    One small point of dissent from your post. Obama did hint at the race issue at one point: when he talked about the sit-ins in the 60s, when black people demanded to be served in restaurants with white people.

    I think Obama carried off that part of his speech very deftly: in the context of other great national triumphs, without any apparent militancy. Just a matter-of-fact statement that it was an important turning point in American history, brought about by ordinary Americans, acting in concert.

    But you have to know: that part of his message came through loud and clear in black America; and perhaps just as loud and clear in other parts of the USA where racism hasn’t yet become a historical footnote.

    I appreciate what you said about Obama’s demeanor. If you want to know what it could have been like, consider this video of Jesse Jackson (who marched alongside Martin Luther King, Jr. twenty-odd years before this speech).

    According to Paul Wells, Jackson made a good run at the presidency in 1988: he attracted more delegates than any other runner-up for the nomination in history, and actually came in first in ten states, despite all that anger. Amazing.

    Obama looks statesmanlike in contrast to Bush, yes — but also in contrast to Jackson.

    Reply

  2. Jack
    Jan 07, 2008 @ 02:21:29

    vetoes of everything under the Sun

    I don’t know that I would use something like this to try and excoriate Bush.

    First, there is a lack of context here. We don’t know what was vetoed and haven’t any way to determine whether we would agree or disagree with him.

    Second, we don’t have any comparison to prior presidents. Did he use it more frequently, less frequently etc. But I do have a link that provides a chart that we can use.

    During the speech, Obama makes clear that he is going to obey the desire of the American public — and the world en masse — for a quiet political sphere.

    I am reluctant to provide kudos to any candidate based upon what the world thinks of them. The world is a fickle place and the majority opinion is not always the moral or ethical.

    The greatest physical promise he makes is that he will implement a public health care system.

    I have heard similar promises. They make nice soundbites. I don’t buy into them. I want to see a plan. Just to be clear, I am very concerned about the healthcare system here. It needs a lot of work and I am not opposed to doing something on a national level, but the question is how.

    FWIW. I haven’t decided what candidate I am going to support. I am not a big fan of any of them. I am following them closely. We have had a Bush or Clinton in the White House since 1980. Change might not be such a bad thing.

    Reply

  3. nebcanuck
    Jan 08, 2008 @ 18:20:32

    Stephen:

    I think Obama carried off that part of his speech very deftly: in the context of other great national triumphs, without any apparent militancy. Just a matter-of-fact statement that it was an important turning point in American history, brought about by ordinary Americans, acting in concert.

    You’re right, of course. And I guess that really ties more into what I was trying to say, rather than less. He wants to fit his own historic role in amongst others’, rather than overtly declaring himself great!

    And it’s an impressive video, all right… one which speaks of a different era, to me. It’s much like the Berkely activism we’ve taken note of in our politics classes… you just don’t see that type of zeal anymore — and I don’t think that it’s even necessary, in most cases! And it’s both positive and negative that that’s the case!

    Jack:

    Second, we don’t have any comparison to prior presidents. Did he use it more frequently, less frequently etc. But I do have a link that provides a chart that we can use.

    I’ve actually heard that Bush was fairly light on the vetoes, in fact. Compared to a lot of presidents, he preferred the silent signing rights that take place behind the scenes instead of the more overt vetoing. But when he made a veto, he made it into a big deal, and was very poignant about refusing to listen to complaints — something which always bothered me slightly. Obama would be far less confrontational about it, methinks!

    I am reluctant to provide kudos to any candidate based upon what the world thinks of them. The world is a fickle place and the majority opinion is not always the moral or ethical.

    Maybe I wouldn’t base my opinion entirely on what a public thinks of the candidate… but I would strongly favour any candidate that proves willing to listen to the demands of the public. Thought that was why we’re in a democracy… *shrugs*

    Just to be clear, I am very concerned about the healthcare system here. It needs a lot of work and I am not opposed to doing something on a national level, but the question is how.

    Agreed. I, being Canadian, haven’t had to sit through the healthcare in the States, so I don’t know first-hand how bad it is. It’s always hard to take a candidate at complete face-value, and the truth is, he could end up just being a flop… especially since we’re looking at a man with little or no finances to work with right now!

    Still, the fact that that’s basically the only thing he’s promising bodes better to me than a man who promises the world. Perhaps he won’t deliver entirely, but if anyone will, it’s the one who focuses solely on planning it out and making it work!

    Reply

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