As America goes to the polls today, I am again reminded of the uniqueness of America.
I was listening to the BBC World Service’s Have Your Say phone-in programme where listeners were giving their views on the US elections. And every caller from Africa except one supported Barack Obama, as did a Nigerian in London, a caller from Jamaica, and even someone representing Republicans for Obama.
With every poll pointing to an Obama victory, this will be a milestone in history. Americans will be doing what no major nation has done. This will be like the British electing an Asian or an African prime minister, the Germans electing a Turkish chancellor, the Indians voting for a Muslim prime minister, the Bangladeshis for a Hindu leader, a non-Han Chinese becoming China’s supreme leader, an Indian or a Malay becoming Chinese-majority Singapore’s prime minister, a Chinese or an Indian becoming prime minister of Malaysia.
Obama enjoys overwhelming international support, everyone says how his election will heal racial divisions. He is close to victory. Now will his ardent supporters in other countries show the same spirit in choosing their leaders?
But let’s not forget John McCain. Even the New York Times, which endorsed Obama, described his ebullience and humour in a profile, which was unlike anything I have read about Obama. We have seen Obama grinning, revelling in applause, speaking thoughtfully, lyrically, but the operative word for him is “cool”, “unflappable” or “inscrutable”. I haven’t seen him choking up like McCain came close to doing while talking about veterans, and how he will take care of them, during their first debate. McCain has fought for his country and suffered for it.
Even the Economist, which endorsed Obama, noted:
“There is no getting around the fact that Mr Obama’s résumé is thin for the world’s biggest job.”
Indeed, Obama’s greatest achievement has been himself. Two bestselling autobiographies and his immense charisma. And, of course, the fact that he had been against the Iraq war from the very start. He is a self-made man in every sense of the word.
McCain is a hero with a long record.
Both are exceptional men. It really comes down to a choice between the head and the heart.