It seems like an age since I’ve sat down to write anything of consequence for this blog, if it could be argued that I’ve ever posted anything of consequence anyway. The truth is that for the best part of the last month I’ve been completely engrossed by the US Presidential elections,and it seems that I’m not alone.
So instead of typing up the things that have annoyed, amazed or inspired me when I’ve had a spare moment I’ve been wandering over to Daily Kos to read the absolute latest story or diary, seeking out campaign related stuff on youtube and making a daily ritual of watching Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow.
I always love elections and, as Scott pointed out in his post at Grods, elections don’t come much bigger or more interesting than the US Presidential poll. But even taking that into account I find myself engaged to a degree far beyond 2000 and 2004 and I can only put that down to one thing, Barack Obama.
I think that the apology to the Stolen Generation here in Australia made the point that symbolism matters, so it is simply impossible to ignore the impact that an Obama Presidency will have on the national psyche of the USA. Comments made by black voters of this being an election that they have ‘been waiting 400 years for’ really emphasises how much people have invested in this candidate. However, I think that there’s more to Obama than his African parentage.
Obama is an unashamedly intellectual, progressive candidate, a far cry from President Bush or the McCain / Palin ticket and I wonder if the mood of the USA is changing as it seemed to here in Australia last year. Hugh Mackay’s 2007 book, Advance Australia… Where?, made the case that we as a nation have been ‘sleeping’ through the last decade, disengaging from politics and our broader communities, but that we are beginning to reconnect. There seems to be a desire to build communities by lifting everyone up, and I think that Obama has tapped into this message and is amplifying it back to his supporters.
I’ve watched videos of some of Obama’s campaign rallies and his performance and rhetoric are electrifying, I simply can’t imagine how the people attending must feel during his speech. His campaign’s motto, “Respect. Empower. Include.” sends a powerful message and has been a framework for the thousands of volunteers throughout the USA. The potential for this theme to continue into the White House is tantalising, especially in the face of the bitterness and hate which has been substituted for policy by the political right in the last decade.
I think that part of Australia’s fascination with the US election this year is that Barack Obama is the leader a lot of us hoped Kevin Rudd would turn out to be, and perhaps if Obama can bring a strong progressive agenda to the most prominent foreign power in our minds we may see a genuine progressive shift in our own nation’s politics. I think that is a ‘Change we need’.