Welcome, Barack Hope Obama

Listening to the first debate between presidential candidates John McCain and Barack Obama, it was very evident that it was a contest between Tweedledum and Tweedledee. The two disagreed on the approach towards taxation and the American economy, but on every foreign policy issue, Obama agreed wholeheartedly with McCain, except the war in Iraq, which has become a drain on US economy. The other thing that stuck out was, of course, the color of Obama’s skin.

That was on 26th September and things were deteriorating rapidly on the economic front. Within days, the Wall Street had collapsed, triggering off a wave of a global financial crisis. Free- market exponents like Allen Greenspan and Francis Fukuyama had to eat their own words as the financial markets looked for massive injections from the State, committing a severe blasphemy towards their ardently held- belief in the ‘free- market’. The US- imposed model ushered three decades ago under Thatcher and Reagen collapsed within days, recalling the spectacular fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 followed by the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. Days before the election day on November 4, more bad news poured in on the economy even as it was hit by what was already accepted to be a full- fledged recession- a forecast of stagflation.

It falls in the realm of speculation whether Obama would have been catapulted into presidency in the absence of this catastrophic crisis. Hyperbolic-ally, one can claim that it needed a worldwide crisis to get an African- American elected as the leader of the still-kind-of-most -powerful country in the world.

It would be unrealistic to expect a U- turn in American foreign policy or even the economic policy because of Obama. As historian Eric Foner has indicated in a recent interview, health-care reform is inevitable not only because the people want it, but because the corporates are unable to bear its costs. The major change that one can expect, and I believe the world is expecting as much as the ordinary American, is a change in policy in Iraq. Other than that, anything else that Obama does can only be better than what the current, beleaguered Bush administration has achieved.

The fact that the campaign was marked by factors that were brought into the center of debate forty years ago- gender (Hillary Clinton, even Sarah Palin) and race (Obama), indicate that the winds of change are blowing across America. Whether this will result in changing America- and to what extent- remains to be seen. For many, just the color of Obama’s skin is a sign of hope.

watch Obama’s Speech yesterday night

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