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Mainstream, Vol XLVI No 47

Obama’s Victory: Dawn of a New Era

Tuesday 11 November 2008, by Nilofar Suhrawardy


Barack Obama’s victory in the US presidential election spells not only a major win for him, his party, his supporters but symbolises the dawn of a new era for the US Government, the Americans and the entire world. Long, endless lines of voters from early hours on November 4 by themselves signalled that a majority of the Americans viewed this election as a major battle, one and perhaps the only opportunity the majority have to mark their stand on their country’s political destiny. They did not want to waste this chance. And so the manner in which they have exercised their votes in electing a Black to enter the White House for the first time in American history as the President carries a historic message, the significance of which shall continue to be debated upon for years to come. True, had President George W. Bush not earned the ire of the people at home and abroad because of the dangerously callous manner in which he pursued US foreign policy, Obama may not have succeeded as he has. Bush’s failure as a diplomat, a politician as well as an economist, however, are just a few of the many points that demand attention because of Obama’s victory.

One is tempted to recall the novel, The Man (written by Irving Wallace), in which a Black becomes the American President not by election but by accident. The novel highlights the racial bias prevalent in the US during that period because of which President Douglass Dilman faces many frustrations, leading to his impeachment. Against this backdrop, Obama’s victory certainly suggests that the American voter has come a long way from the 1960s. He has not become the President by accident but has been voted to this office by the Americans. That he has won the polls by a sweeping majority clearly signals that the average American’s political attitude, in today’s age, is guided by a new fervour. A fervour because of which the young and the old, cutting across regional, religious and racial barriers, have chosen to have Obama as their President.

It would be going a little overboard to say that Obama’s victory suggests complete elimination of the racial bias from all sections of the American society. What stands out is that the Americans deliberately chose not to let their decision to vote be affected by the race-card, known to have been exercised by the rival camp. Surely, if the average American had allowed himself to be influenced by the racial factor, than the Whites in both the parties—Democratic and Republican—would have paid greater importance to ensuring Obama’s defeat. Herein the role played by communication stands out. The average American, White or Black, Christian or of any other religious community found it easier to identify himself with Obama than his rival John McCain. Cutting across racial, religious and regional barriers, the problems confronting the average American are the same, and these have been only enhanced because of the wrong policies pursued by Bush. Obama has age on his side too, prompting probably the first-time voters in the US to feel more at ease in having him in the Oval Office than settle for the oldest ever President. So what if McCain is White? Electing him carried the risk of carrying forward the burdens left by Bush. Obama—so what if he is Black?—at least spells hope of charting a new course for the country and its citizens.

There can be no two opinions about Obama’s victory having brought the world face to face for the first time with a silent revolution that has been brewing among the average American class—Blacks and Whites—for a long time. These include the ones who have strongly felt disillusioned, dissatisfied and also discriminated against because of the US policies having been pursued, at the whims of select sections, to satiate the interests of a small minority. The minority does not refer to the entire Jewish population of the country. It too has activists like Noam Chomsky, who have not refrained from hitting at the American media—controlled largely by the Jews by highlighting the role played by “manufactured news”. There is no secret, however, that the average American has felt disheartened at the manner in which the sections who dominate the academia, media and US foreign policy, appear to have been given greater importance to pursuing that which favours Israel, caring little for the country’s own population. Give a thought to viewing the US war operations conducted against Afghanistan as well as Iraq from the angle of a common American. These operations, conducted in foreign terrain, without the security or sovereignty of the US being at risk, have spelt loss of many American lives. Or being severely handicapped—all for the sake of battles which have nothing to do with the country’s national interest and can hardly be credited for spread of democracy or any diplomatic victory. Each time a coffin was brought home from such war operations, it apparently also sowed silent seeds of opposition against the policies that led to such a death. Think of the trauma suffered by families and friends of those deceased in such wars or severely injured—all for the sake of a battle that appears meaningless in their understanding of their national interest.

Yes, there was a period when the average American thought it to inappropriate to criticise, question or even deliberate on whether the decisions taken at the White House were correct. They assumed them to be correct because the White House thought so. Obama’s victory also signals the beginning of the end of this phase. Again, had the Americans been satisfied with Bush, they may have chosen to remain confined in their own small worlds. But Bush’s mistakes, exposed primarily because of the major role played by the boom in communication revolution—through the television services and the internet—shook the entire American community into stepping out to make their decisive contribution in changing American polity as they did on November 4.


Obama’s victory, thus also symbolises the first time that Americans have exercised their democratic right to vote so decisively. It is a victory of actual democracy, shaped by the American vote. Once the Cold War ended, following the collapse of the Soviet Union, the United States’ Afghanistan policy may have had little impact on the American voters. The Iraq policy pursued by Bush has, however, not found much favour among the Americans at large. This is certainly indicated by Obama’s victory being also suggestive of their having had enough of such policies being pursued by Bush. It may be noted, even sections of the younger generation of Jews living in the United States are no more too comfortable with the continuance of such war games. So much so that they hardly feel at home even in Israel, where they are supposed to stay for a brief period to become familiar with the nation.

Obama’s success gives the powerful message that the average American has become strongly aware of the war games, which carry little importance for the people and the country. They are against their lives being put to risk in foreign terrains and are apprehensive of this trend contributing to increase in terrorist operations within the US. There is no denying that Blacks form a significant population in the United States, around 12 per cent. Differences of opinion exist on the Muslim population in the US. The White House is, however, not oblivious of the rising Muslim population’s importance in the country. It is not without reason that the White House has begun the practice of holding iftar parties. But with their being a two-party system in the US, even if all the Blacks and Muslims aligned, their votes would not have been sufficient to assure such a sweeping victory for Obama. True, the Blacks continue to be discriminated against. One may recall the frenzy displayed by Black mobs in 1992 following the acquittal of four White police officers accused of beating a Black—Rodney King. The issue hit the headlines because King being beaten up was video-taped and telecast across the country. Today still, there are probably many Rodney Kings, including the poor White Americans (Christians and Muslims), subject to various kinds of discrimination. The mob frenzy displayed by the Blacks in 1992 was just a minor indicator of the resentment against the discrimination they had been facing for long. Obama’s victory, however, carries a far deeper message. It is the voice of the anguish the average American has been suffering from for quite some time. They are not ready to take it lying down silently or passively any longer. Yes, this marks a dynamic turning-point in the political attitude of the average American. Apathy of the White House towards their problems is no longer acceptable to them.

Had the November 4 election not been preceded by a financial crisis affecting the Wall Street and the entire world, Obama may not have emerged the winner that he has. The financial crisis, poking the American a little harshly, only awakened them to strongly realise that playing war games in other countries amounted to putting their own lives, future and even financial security at stake. This was not the America they could look upon as a superpower, a model country in their own perception.

Obama has a heavy agenda ahead. It may be pointed out, while campaigning he did his best to assure the Jews that he would remain a champion of their interests. Obama is well aware that despite their electoral significance being of barely any significance, they command a strong hold on lobbying in Washington. His victory spells a major defeat for the war games indulged in by Bush among the Americans and also the world at large. Now, it is for Obama to play the role of a great diplomat, giving importance to dialogue (and not war-operations) in resolving international disputes, including the Palestinian issue. His victory, resting on the support from both Blacks and Whites, certainly marks the ushering in of a new era in America. By supporting him, Americans have also aggressively voiced their opposition to the US exercising its nuclear prowess as and when it feels like, without giving much importance to deaths, injuries along with financial and emotional tension that it can lead to. Obama may not have won had he and his supporters not succeeded in driving such points strongly into the mind of the American community at large. It is in this context that one can emphatically view Obama’s victory as symbolising the scripting of a significant chapter in global diplomacy where from the American voters’ lens the show of nuclear prowess has been defeated by a new importance of communication strategies in play at all levels, from diplomatic to politicking at the grassroots!

The author is a well-known freelance journalist, who spent several years in the US and specialised in communication studies and nuclear diplomacy. Her book, Ayodhya without the Communal Stamp in the Name of Indian Secularlism, is the sixth most popular book on the website

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