I must open with heartfelt thanks to all of you for the passion and drama and rhetoric and personality you’ve offered each other and the world, in the political-theatre context, for the last couple of years. Unless the tools of Statistics have suddenly become empty shells, Mr. Obama will be your forty-fourth President; I’ve said my piece on why this is probably a good thing. Here’s some more.
Barack himself, if you ignore the ethnic glamour, the remarkable gift of gab, and those cartoonist-friendly ears (they’re not the same size!), seems little more on the face of it than a mainstream-Democratic-party politico with unusually good management and marketing skills.
The Movement · But I think there are two things about this election that are special. First, the Obama campaign, which is much more interesting than Obama, the candidate. The extent to which it’s made huge numbers of perfectly ordinary people into passionate activists is remarkable. I see the video of them organizing and phone-calling and door-knocking and so on, and it’s just impossible not to be moved. These are the kinds of people that people who like Americans like: energetic, fresh-faced, civic-minded, sincere to an extent that would be laughed at in some — well, most — other countries.
Thus, whatever my feelings about the candidate, I am so, so happy that these folks’ hard work and passion is going to receive a just reward.
As for the apparently smaller and less passionate number of people who toiled for the McCain campaign? Well, yeah, it’s tough, but that leads to my next point.
The Real Value of Democracy · I’ve written about this before; I don’t really trust the American people, or any populace actually, to pick the optimal economic or foreign-relations policies. It’s a complex world, and Nobel Prize winners disagree on this stuff. I even have relatively little confidence in the public’s judgment on the suitability of one person or another for public office.
What I’ve long been confident of is the ability of the people at large to detect when they’re being governed badly. And thus I’ve felt that the key virtue of democracy is to give the population, when they detect this condition, a peaceful and orderly way to throw the bastards out and try betting on another horse. It seems to me that if you have that, you have almost everything, and if you don’t, you have nothing.
And at the end of the day, that’s what this election is about. The Republicans are the party of Dick Cheney and Tom DeLay and Trent Lott and Rick Santorum and Bradley Scholzman, and the American people have quite properly concluded that these guys’ hands need to be wrested from the levers of power. It was watching Schlozman’s testimony on C-SPAN, insomniac in a hotel room, that flipped my personal switch about American politics, convincing me that this generation of Republicans aren’t reasonable people with whom I have disagreements, they’re corrupt lying torturing malevolent buffoons.
I tend to swing left, but any country’s political discourse needs a plausible conservative alternative, and unfortunately the USA doesn’t have one at the moment.
But anyhow: Thanks again, and congratulations!