13

America isn’t done changing


 

On November 4, 2008, Barack Obama said America had changed. For those who recalled the idealism of the 60s, the dreams of Martin Luther King and the Kennedy brothers had seemingly come to pass: a young African-American man from humble beginnings was elected on the basis of his character and not on the colour of his skin. It was an exhilarating moment that I was fortunate to witness while standing on the roof of the Canadian embassy. A little over a year later, however, many Americans are wondering whether America has really changed or whether last year’s election was an accident of history.

The polarization so often decried by Obama and the rest of the political class remains as sharp as ever. While the nation seemed open to more governmental activism in light of the financial meltdown of last fall, more and more Americans have become concerned about the size of government, the deficit and the debt. Health care reform still has the favour of a majority of the population, but the shape that reform should take has become fodder for acrimonious debates. And as Obama considers different options for the war in Afghanistan, the debate over American military efforts will once again be front and centre. No matter what, his decision will surely be a contentious one. Meanwhile, the economy remains fragile, job losses are expected through most of 2010, and Obama’s approval numbers have come back down to Earth. America, it seems, is back to business as usual.

Yet, I believe America is on an irreversible course of change, both domestically and in foreign policy. For one thing, Americans seem more conscious of their standing in the world. Relations with China and Russia are about to enter a new stage. The environment, energy needs, national security, and diplomacy require that the United States work with its partners. Even when it comes to less-friendly and outright belligerent nations, Americans realize that war has to be the last alternative. Iran cannot become the next Iraq. Exporting U.S.-style democracy and nation-building, laudable as it may appear to some, is not the cornerstone of U.S. foreign policy unless it meets national interests. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will not be supported indefinitely and without reservation. Exit strategies will be the order of the day, which may explain the president’s lengthy deliberations on increasing troop levels in Afghanistan.

On the domestic front, Republicans are becoming increasingly aware that the GOP will have to once again become a big tent party or risk long-term minority status. The worrying state of the economy will require greater accountability from Wall Street. And, for better or worse, consumer habits are changing, although for many, it has been involuntary. If the future appears perilous to some, to others, it is downright exciting. Despite all the uncertainty, the U.S. remains a pivotal and positive force on the defining issues of the future—peace, nuclear security, innovation, the environment and reducing poverty .

With this in mind, I am off to New York City on an exciting government assignment representing Quebec interests. This will be my last blog for a while (stop cheering jolyon, Gaunilon and friends). I want to thank Maclean’s for its confidence and support. This blog started off as an account of my involvement in the New Hampshire primary in January of 2008 and was based on my belief in the significance and promise of the Obama campaign. It soon became more. Along the way, I hope it was enjoyable to readers and bloggers. Many approved my opinions, but I know I provoked some. Through it all, I never intended to be disagreeable even when we disagreed. I enjoyed the exchanges even if I avoided direct responses. Many of you helped me think further; others reinforced my points of view. Thanks to all.


 

America isn’t done changing

  1. infernal optimist! – here is the problem with wanting change rarely does the change desired occur instead change not desired is the result ' The Law of Unitended Consequences ' reigns supreme as Murphy the true ruler of the universe designed it that way. But John your stuff has been interesting and hope you keep contributing b.o.w (best of wishes)

  2. America may not be done changing (because change is inevitable), but much of this article and certainly its spirit, could have been written in the 70's. The future belongs to everybody, not just progressives, so one shouldn't assume that progressives will inherit the earth.

  3. I guess we will be spared the comments of the far right loonies (Beck , Limbaugh ,Palin)who dominate the blogosphere . The avr and jolyon will have to depend on the one sided views of Fox News .
    And Palin going rogue !!

  4. I will miss being provoked. Good luck in New York, Parisella. I hope it goes well for you and yours.

  5. america is trying to change

    That should be the title . But Republicans and Palin want go back to saying no to progress and change . Conservatives led by Palin and the far riight are resisting change . Wall Street greed , wars , torture, recession , tax cuts for the rich -that is what the Republicans want !

  6. Well, in the same spirit I wish you all the best Parisella.

    • For once, Gaunilon and I think the same!

      Good luck in New York. Quebeckers are lucky to have you representing their interests!

  7. I'll miss your posts as well and best of luck in your endeavours in NYC.

  8. Not sure America should change. Look forward to Palin`s book . That is the change I can believe in.
    I see Parisella is leaving. Too bad. He got me mad at times but I agree with my soulmates, Gaunilon and jwl, that he enjoy NY.

  9. I would have loved a good debate on Sheik mohammed `s trial in Nwe York . Already Guiliani is starting the usual right wing rhetoric.
    Very political and it explains why he should not be president .
    With Palin resurfacing , it reminds me how bad McCain was ,and how bad his judgment is .
    The Republicans are not concious about how out of touch they are .

  10. Merci et bonne chance, John

  11. Taking about changes let me just expose that John's blog has been, in recent years, one of the most refreshing and interesting episodes in public affairs analysis. I frankly believe John Parizella brought a different way of exposing and provoking viewpoints in a non-conflict approach. For sure, he who enjoys talking with so much conviction about change in the US politics has brought himself changes in looking at things the way he did, and for sure, many journalists here and abroad could learn a lot from John. With a bit of sadness I realize today with the announcement of his last blog that we are about to turn the page on the last chapter of a good book. Looking at it in an egoist point of view, it appears that we unfortunately loose a good and steady reporter and chronicler of American public life as a consequence as his appointment as Québec attaché in New York. But looking at it with some perspectives, every one gained in having someone as competent as John, as “représentant” of Québec in the states, not only for Quebecers but also for all those Canadians and Americans interested in democracy.

    Tank you John and lot of success in your new appointment.

  12. newsflash: we're NOT changing! we have buyer's remorse, and we're trying to undo it. get obama out of office in 2012!!

Sign in to comment.