Admiring the U.S.A.
By Pepe Eliaschev
Those who would have preferred that everything stay the same in the USA are legion in the world. They cannot admit, due to a stupidly rigid ideology, that the black presidential candidate Barack Obama signifies a colossal phenomenon.
After November, when the successor to George W. Bush is elected, the United States will have a strong possibility of starting on a new path, a measured but firm recuperation of its deteriorated moral prestige.
The campaign which the Democratic Party has just concluded is an exemplary exhibition of democratic will. Almost 37 million citizens participated in the Democratic primaries. Another 9.5 million voted in the Republican ones. This picture shows the robust representative character of a mechanism which, steeped in political will, overflows with democratic legitimacy.
The excited enthusiasm that Obama’s candidacy inspires in almost the whole world is understandable. In Argentina it is not very probable that there will be many just and equitable judgments about the phenomenon. Here it is always easier and more profitable to castigate the USA for everything, but free voices are lacking which admit that a system like the American one can provide these changes in a society which chooses to tread new paths, aim in a different direction, adopt diverse attitudes.
Obama’s victory is a legitimate opportunity to admire that country without shame. But hardly any of those who fill their mouths with “progressive” values, wants to pay the price of abandoning the compulsive mandate of hating the Yankees.
In the darkest moment of its history, mired in the bloody mud of the Iraq tragedy, its democratic credentials justifiably questioned by those sinister clandestine jails, the United States has appealed to its institutions, re-legitimatized the political system in force for over two centuries, and is marching toward a serene but firm solution to its painful predicament.
As a presidential candidate, Obama is not only the result of the intense and admirable campaign which resulted in 19 million votes; it is also a confirmation that it is possible to debate, argue and dispute for the support of voters without disqualifying or ignoring the opponent. The 17.5 votes for Hillary Clinton also confirm the fact that in participating massively and enthusiastically, the U.S. citizens have revalidated the living character of their democracy. It is, furthermore, a spectacular turning point for two reasons: Obama is only 46 years old and is dark-skinned. He combines a double expression of generational and ethnic evolution in the practices and customs of the political body of that nation.
Even if he doesn’t reach the White House in 2009, the Afro-American Obama has already opened the doors for new and larger civil inclusion and universality – 40 years after the assassination of Martin Luther King. This enhanced tolerance will have repercussions in American policy towards peoples of the whole planet, alien to the strict environment of western culture and its Christian heritage.
Bush’s unpopularity has been enormous and widespread in almost the whole world, but few are willing to concede that the harshness and stupidity of his decisions does not prevent the country from openly and passionately discussing how to go on. The Republican candidate, John McCain, is not a follower of the present administration in the strict and literal sense, nor does he respond to the narrow and overheated neoconservatism that has fed the ideology and options of the White House during the past eight years.
In the whole world the desire for change in Washington has been clamorous and an Obama-McCain contest reflects it. It has already happened previously: after the Richard Nixon tragicomedy and the Gerald Ford interregnum, in 1976 the Americans elected the 52 year old Jimmy Carter who displayed, above all, ethical credentials as a comparative advantage. These are moments which reflect the open character of North American democracy, of course still infected by the plutocratic virus and the permanent battle against the power of the lobbies, but which is nevertheless capable of changing direction, as is happening again now.
A woman possessing her own merits, Hillary Rodham Clinton, and an Afro-American have competed for the candidacy and have engaged in no less that seven public debates on TV. In how many other countries is such huge availability for civilized and open debate possible?
For decades this characteristic of the USA encouraged the seldom admitted admiration for that country of excessive scale, unpardonable outrages and, furthermore, lofty magnificence. The world’s imagination can again feel itself captured by that country whose versatility for change tends to disconcert those who prefer the ineluctable paradise of closed societies.
Furthermore Obama belongs to the internet age. He is clearly a part of that culture and has used the web to recruit, convince and to acquire funds. Nothing more democratic and transparent than to finance politics via the web. Can anyone imagine that such a thing could be possible in Argentina? Could a campaign mounted from the small contributions of many prosper in this domain of opacity, subsidies and clandestine contributions?
There is also another angle, derived from Frank Sinatra’s famous New York, New York , when he warns that: If I can make it here, I can make it anywhere. The candidacy of this son of an immigrant from Kenya is a step higher than the history of the German Jew Henry Kissinger, who became Secretary of State. It speaks of landslides, evolution, the triumph of reform. Obama becomes a “transformational” figure, equivalent to two illustrious assassinated men: John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King.
Of course it is annoying that the enemy predicts change. It is irritating that the black and white vision is revealed to be deficient and even deforming. This magnificent season of popular participation and democratic vigor in the United States is, however, wonderful news for those who see in these signs of evolution something unfortunately inconceivable in Argentina.
This article appeared original in Spanish in the Argentine publication "Perfil" on June 6, 2008.
Translation: Frank Thomas Smith