Oh yes he did
What the 44th President means to the United States, Canada and the world.
The Ottawa Citizen’s Dan Gardner traces a brief history of racist American legislation and public opinion for the purposes of highlighting just how far the nation has come, and how quickly. He recounts the story of Jacqueline Henley, a Louisiana toddler whose aunt found it impossible to raise her amidst rumours the child’s father was black, and whose adoption by a black couple was rejected by the courts on grounds she was officially white, and they wouldn’t inflict official blackness on her unless there was irrefutable evidence. That madness was in 1952; today, says Gardner, everybody knows Barack Obama’s mother was white and nobody cares. Heck, it was only 41 years ago the Supreme Court nixed anti-miscegenation laws, and in that time public approval of intermarriage has gone from 80 per cent against to 80 per cent in favour. In short, don’t you tell Dan Gardner that “moral progress” is impossible.
Can this “new Democratic coalition of New Southerners, liberal northerners, wary blue-collars, African Americans, Latinos and suddenly mobilized” youth be sustained, John Ibbitson asks in The Globe and Mail, or will it “dissolve as [Obama] struggles to reverse economic decline and financial panic”? It remains, naturally, to be seen. But Americans made a historic decision yesterday, he contends, that “the last eight years were a waste” and that “we need to start again”—and the world will take note. More fundamentally, however, Ibbitson says Obama’s victory is a reaffirmation of what’s possible in the political world. “Peace can come to Ireland. The Cold War can end. America’s racial wounds can start to heal.”
In the National Post, Robert Fulford offers an eloquent and altogether terrific summation of Obama’s victory, arguing that rather than playing to his base, “he insisted on expanding the base until it became his own creation, a superbly organized coalition of Americans who wanted to rise above both racism and the rancorous left-right divisiveness that has made it impossible to govern the United States without regular infusions of partisan hatred.” He “changed the subject,” in other words, and in so doing he “fashioned himself into an answer to the problem that [Ralph] Ellison’s Invisible Man posed”—i.e., in Ellison’s words, “revealing the human universals hidden within the plight of one who was both black and American, dealing with the sheer rhetorical challenge involved in communicating across our barriers of race and religion, class, color and region.”
The Vancouver Sun’s Daphne Bramham also expresses hope Obama can lead America into a post-racial era, and suggests, by way of a presidential to-do list, that “it would be enough to expect him to be an interlocutor between the angry and excluded on both sides of the American colour divide, the person to resolve the legacies of slavery and finish the civil rights movement.” Er, yeah, that would sure be nice alright. What’s that you say? You want more? Indeed, she notes, he also faces difficult-to-manage “expectations that he’ll end (in victory) the wars that George W. Bush started, restore the economy, fix health care, put a roof over everyone’s head and a cooked chicken (real or tofu) in every oven.”
The Globe’s Jeffrey Simpson has foreseen the need to let America down easy, and helpfully writes a speech for Obama in which he explains why he’ll have to abandon all those tax cuts he promised. But really, who cares what Simpbama says? The very idea of him writing in Obama’s voice is cringe-inducingly embarrassing, frankly. Still better than the Uncle Fred columns, though.
The Toronto Star’s Thomas Walkom has done some interesting door-to-door, canvas-the-plebes type stories before. His tour of southwestern Ontario’s purported rust belt comes to mind. But his stuff from the American heartland has been strangely lifeless, and the point of it all escapes us. Yesterday, for example, he tooled around Broward County in Florida with a nursing assistant and a medical assistant who were handing out water (bought by the Obama campaign) to people in line at polling stations. He hints at a few points—the polling stations were difficult to find thanks to undisclosed “peculiarities of … state law,” for example—but nothing ever comes of them. And “I’m waiting [in line] because I’m going to vote” has to be one of the worst quotes we’ve ever read.
The Star’s Rosie DiManno, meanwhile, reports approvingly from Chicago, using all sorts of bizarre colloquialisms—e.g., “a bro is the prez”—that seem, nay, that are, completely inappropriate for the occasion.
Colby Cosh plays spoilsport in the Post, arguing the election proved “it’s still possible to cash in on 60 years of relentless, blind media buildup for the myths of the New Deal,” thus provoking American Liberals into “genuine, ululating wallet-terror over [McCain] … even though Obama’s protectionism is the single greatest danger to the real-world economy in the months to come.” He hopes Obama is “a better president than [these people] deserve.” What a cold place Edmonton can be. Join us, Mr. Cosh. Let President-elect Obama clasp you to his bosom. He is your president too.
Also in the Post, Lorne Gunter dismisses comparisons between Obama and John F. Kennedy (as indeed, he dismisses Obama) on grounds that he isn’t a sweat-drenched anti-Communist—which is very important in 2008, don’t you know—doesn’t exhibit sufficient belief in American exceptionalism, “has wined and dined with radical Islamists, [and] befriended ‘60s hippy terrorists,” and “seems to feel shame for his own country, at least in international affairs.” Bitter, stupid and gratuitous are all adjectives that fall short of adequately describing this column.
Still in the Post, David Frum suggests two paths forward for the GOP. It can stay the course on “taxes, guns, right to life [and] patriotism,” continuing to bet the proverbial farm on the Joe the Plumber vote. And “if 60% of the Joe vote is no longer enough, nominate Palin—and win 65%. Or 70%. Whatever it takes.” Or it could face reality and try to recapture a demographic it once appealed to—college graduates, who now trust the Democrats with their money and won’t let Republicans anywhere near their values. This path “will involve painful change,” Frum concedes, “on issues ranging from the environment to abortion,” and it will involve embracing politics that are “less overtly religious, less negligent with policy and less polarizing on social issues.” Sarah Palin’s out of luck in this future. But “a Republican recovery” isn’t out of the question.
The Globe’s Doug Saunders dismisses the narrative under which the people of the world will now reevaluate their positions on America en masse, and governments will beat a friendly path to the White House door. Polls show people are “far more skeptical about Mr. Obama’s chances of improving things” than they are enthusiastic about his getting a chance to try, he notes—just “22 per cent of Jordanians, 31 per cent of Egyptians and 34 per cent of Lebanese feel that he will ‘do the right thing’ in world affairs.”
Back in the Post, L. Ian MacDonald suggests Canada’s recently announced 2011 pullout form Afghanistan “may come as something of a surprise to Obama” as he’s briefed on the various international files. And as “the jostling among foreign governments for the attention of the president-elect” gets underway, he hints a rethink may yet occur in Ottawa on the subject. “Gosh,” he quips, “the things that politicians say during elections.”
The Vancouver Sun’s Barbara Yaffe dusts off all the tired complaints about Washington’s treatment of poor little Canada—including that unbelievably childish whinge about Bush not thanking us for helping out during the September 11 attacks and the fact that he “never once invited a Canadian leader to his Texas ranch”—and suggests the Obama era may bestow upon us a more open border, as long as we fulfill our obligations on climate change.
Derek Burney assures the Post’s John Ivison that our strong bargaining position on NAFTA, our likeable new foreign affairs minister and the superior optics of cozying up to Obama than to Bush put bilateral relations in a good place. He suggests “build[ing] on the success of the North American Aerospace Defence Command agreement to create a more secure continental perimeter” should be the first issue broached with the new administration. And we’ll go ahead and predict that’s the precise moment vast portions of the Canadian left will abandon Obamamania and return to suspecting the Americans of generalized evil-doing.
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