Should McCain defeat Obama in the US Presidential election, the world will descend into a state of mass depression.
Political and psychological despair piling on top of the worst global economic recession since the 1930s is the last thing we need. I don’t say this lightly.
The Bush years have been hard on planet earth. Add to that the general absence of inspirational leaders on the global stage, and from Patagonia to Tokyo, you have an overwhelming desire for something exciting and meaningful. And Obama, for better or for worse, is filling that void.
I am seeing people from all nationalities buoyed by the Obama factor. The detractors will tell you it’s all about his soaring speeches and it doesn’t mean anything as far as reality goes.
Yet I have always marveled at those who belittle oratory or the ability of political leaders to inspire. As if the job of political leaders is to produce audit reports or legal opinions or lay bricks at a construction site. Sure all such jobs are essential and great. But, as far as I am concerned, half of the job of a political leader is to inspire. And at the risk of making all those real politic agents amongst us throw up, YES, it is about making you dream.
I am not only addressing the American public in this article. I am also talking about all those world citizens like myself who are engrossed in the US election and what it means for the world. The Bush years have taught us the hard way that US politics can have a direct effect on the daily lives of people around the world.
So, in this election, Arabs, Europeans, Russians and everyone else, would love to be given the chance to vote in November. If that were to happen, McCain will be defeated by the biggest landslide in history.
Various surveys attest to Obama’s extraordinary global popularity. A recent BBC World Service poll found that the margin was 4 to 1 in favour of Obama amongst 22,500 people surveyed in 22 countries. The margins in favour of Obama varied from 9% to 82%, with an average of 49% going for Obama, compared to a tiny 12% in favour of McCain.
Obama’s surge on the world stage is leading to a re-examination of politics in countries and local communities thousands of miles away from any US city. The ability of a mixed-race individual to come from nowhere and have a shot at the presidency of the world’s greatest power is causing a lot of people (or folks, as Bush would say) to re-visit their fatal cynicism towards politics.
There is an indisputable sense that Obama made it through sheer grit and charisma. There is no powerful family behind Obama that pushed him to the heights of political achievement. In fact, everything about his family is causing him trouble, particularly in those US voter communities under the magic spell of Karl Rove and his brand of “power at any cost.”
There is hardly anything more striking than reading about Obama’s half brother, who lives in a shanty town in Nairobi, Kenya, in sheer poverty. This is a contrast that speaks volumes about the true promise of America and the chances it affords an immigrant’s son.
One of the major empowering aspects of Obama’s rise is its dependence on citizen involvement. Obama has managed to fund his campaign through direct contributions by ordinary people from all walks of life. His website has proven to be the most effective fund raising tool in history. His funds have far exceeded those of his rivals in the primaries and McCain’s.
In a country like the US, where reliance on big corporate backers and lobby groups has been essential, this is nothing short of phenomenal. In that sense at least, and as Obama said during the National Democratic Convention, the people are “taking back America.”
Obama’s success is leading to a re-examination of politics, not only around the fabled kitchen tables in middle America, but in dining rooms in Cairo and London. If people in America, a country so weighed down by the power of lobbyists and money, can engineer this Obama campaign out of nowhere, what are people elsewhere capable of if they unite behind a common cause?
As I write these lines, the dishonorable yet sadly effective Swift Boat attack machine of the Republican Party is in full flow. A group of not-so-undercover-Republican agents recently distributed 28 million DVDs targeting voters in swing states, implying that Obama is soft on Iran and other targets, because he is a Muslim. This is only the tip of an iceberg and it will get worse and worse. The Swift Boat tactics of the McCain campaign will continue to focus on Obama’s foreign roots as they run out of options this month.
And I can just imagine how the Swift Boaters deal with opinions just as the one I am expressing here. They will go around saying “see, Obama is better for Arabs and foreigners, and that should make you think… People around the world love him because he will make America weak!”
This could be effective with the American voter who is not well versed in international politics. So let me preempt the Karl Rovites by providing just some of the reasons why Arabs for example are hoping for an Obama victory:
– Despite all those differences between Arabs and the American government on foreign policy, there is a strong longing amongst so many Arabs for America to take on a moral and righteous role in Arab politics. This belief still remains because, deep down, the majority of Arabs know America as a country that remains a land of unparalleled opportunity. Many families in the Arab world have stories of a friend or a relative who went to the US and made something of herself or himself. And these same Arabs look with amazement at the political role of America in the Arab world, and how far removed it is from the core of American values. And these Arabs now believe that maybe, in Barack Obama, we will for once have an American President who will match America’s internal virtues with its foreign exploits.
– After witnessing the tragic consequences of the Iraq war, people in the region are petrified by the prospect of an American war against Iran. There is a strong sense that such a war might indeed be the last straw for this troubled region, leading it to a cycle of bloodshed and instability unlike anything we have seen before. There is no doubt that Obama will bring a more reasonable foreign policy approach, based on strong but effective diplomacy. Likewise, there is no doubt that McCain will bomb Iran. In addition to going around singing “bomb Iran” like a total brat, McCain has surrounded himself with die-hard neocons whose only remaining political objective is the obliteration of Iran.
– People in the region are beginning to witness the consequences of the decline of the American empire and they are not sure they like it. Chaos in Lebanon, and the complete lack of hope on the Palestinian-Israeli front have left people with a sense of desolation. People of the region are sure that Obama will re-assert the reputation and prestige of America in a way that would allow it to play a constructive role. As for McCain, there is a complete conviction that he will be an older yet unwiser version of George Bush and, with Palin on his side, the nightmare ticket is complete.
Finally, as a citizen of the world, I will end by asking all Americans reading this piece to think twice before perpetuating the waste of the Bush years. I ask all Americans to believe in the promise of the world’s support for Obama. Most of us love what America stands for, and the support of Obama represents a craving on the part of a huge majority around the world for America to regain and improve its leadership position.
A vote for Obama is a golden opportunity for America. A vote for McCain is a confirmation to the world that America is losing faith in herself.