Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive
But to be young was very heaven!
Wordsworth’s words from The Prelude about the French Revolution could apply to us too who grew up in the Swinging Sixties and early ’70s, and they are true again now in America. Barack Obama’s famous victory in Iowa shows how far America has come since Martin Luther King proclaimed in 1963, "I have a dream".
I am a Bill Clinton fan, and maybe because of my age, I am more reassured by intelligence and experience than intelligence and charisma. But hats off to everyone who voted for Obama. This is what makes America unique. Where else in the western world is a non-white so close to winning power by popular vote? And why allege prejudice only in the West? How many other countries in the world are likely to elect an ethnic minority candidate to power?
By putting their faith in Obama, Americans are showing not only a freedom from racial prejudice but enthusiasm for new ideas, new voices that is so very American. This is what created Hollywood and the auto industry and the hippie culture and the internet. In the last 100 years, almost everything that has become part of popular culture spread from America. The Americans have been among the foremost innovators and early adopters.
Oh, the Americans are conservative, say the Europeans, a leftist in America would be considered a centrist in Europe. Maybe. But America has a way of coming up with innovations in politics too. Remember the Howard Dean campaign, how it spread on the Internet? That was something new at the time.
There’s the other side of America too. It has been almost unremittingly at war since Pearl Harbour and December 1941. Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, one war has followed the next, prompting even Americans to write about a war-based economy.
But read the New York Times editorial, Looking at America, published on December 31. How many mainstream newspapers in the world can so courageously stand up against the government and say what it is doing is wrong? It was US newspapers that exposed Watergate and published the Pentagon Papers. I can’t recall exposes of such magnitude by the British press. They would have been gagged by the Official Secrets Act.
Obama may or may not win the nomination. There are other good candidates in the field. I don’t understand the animus against Hillary and John Edwards shows genuine concern for the people. But whoever wins, this election will be remembered for the Obama phenomenon and what it says of American society just as the Howard Dean campaign marked the coming of age of blogs in politics.
I am reminded of John F Kennedy, He was 43 years old when he became president. Obama is 46. He is having the same electric effect on the media, inspiring American journalists to wax lyrical.
The Chicago Tribune wrote:
In the end, Iowans voted for a smile.
They chose conciliation over combat, personality over pedigree, hope over fear. They voted for the new, with fervor.
Wrote David Brooks in the New York Times:
I’ve been through election nights that brought a political earthquake to the country. I’ve never been through an election night that brought two (referring to both Obama and Huckabee).
Maureen Dowd got poetic too:
The Obama revolution arrived not on little cat feet in the Iowa snow but like a balmy promise, an effortlessly leaping lion hungry for something different, propelled by a visceral desire among Americans to feel American again.
Yes, the Obama phenomenon is uniquely American.