Some (Belated) Thoughts on Obama's Victory

This posting is from D&S collective member and frequent blogger Larry Peterson. To see more of his posts, click here.

One week ago, after Senator Barack Obama had been anointed President-elect by the high priests at the TV networks, I witnessed some things I never thought I’d see in the United States at the conclusion of one of its peculiarly puerile, mercilessly interminable, all-too-often ineffectual and, last but certainly not least, offensively expensive national political campaigns. And the late-night cheering and horn-honking reminded me, in a very slight sense, of some of the clips I had heard or seen in broadcasts from places like Haiti and South Africa, when popularly elected governments finally replaced unspeakable dictatorships. Particularly in the case of the latter, the comparison, though exceedingly small, is, I feel apt; for Obama’s election not only signaled an undeniable liberatory movement on the part of the whole society away from a shameful racist past, but marked a point at which the days of the the Bush administration–surely the worst in the history of the country–could finally be put behind all of us.

But the euphoria should stop right there. It must be remembered that it took no less than two wars (one clearly illegal, and both, in important ways, lost), a financial meltdown the like of which hasn’t been seen in three generations (and this before the potential extent of the economic fallout of that collapse really seemed to hit home with much of the electorate earlier in the autumn), scandals–including indictments and imprisonment of key personnel–unlike any since Watergate (which isn’t surprising, since a key objective of many administration personnel, especially Vice-President Cheney, who served as President Ford’s chief of staff after Nixon resigned in disgrace, was to reverse Watergate-era checks on the powers of the presidency, a task at which they far more than succeeded), and a spectacularly bad campaign by an opposing candidate, McCain, who seemed unable to believe that any other strategy could prove victorious bar the one that vanquished him in the 2000 Republican primaries (i.e. pandering to religious and social conservatives organized in the type of rigid vanguards so artfully exploited by Bush-fixer Karl Rove), to get Obama elected to the presidency, and to maintain Democratic control of both houses of Congress (though not with a filibuster-proof majority). And Obama will not only have to face the truly unprecedented challenge of the economic crisis, but also–and more-or-less simultaneously with–the full onset of a whole host of unfavorable demographic (think pensions here), ecological and geopolitical trends (which will require huge outlays merely to address, never mind handle appropriately). And that probably without the luxury of being able to print money that will be bought up by our trading partners at will. And with a population already blighted by decades of neglect where wages, savings, education, health care and even quality-of-life indicators are concerned.

Even racial progress shouldn’t be emphasized too much. I actually heard the fools on the Chris Matthews roundtable enthusing about the invigorating sense the American population will develop having finally attained a prolonged and visible access to a successful, functional black upper-middle class family (the Obamas). Meanwhile, just about every other social and economic indicator for blacks continues stuck in unacceptable territory, if not trending downright downward. Nothing to honk about here.

As I write, at 1.45 pm EST, US stock indices are suffering significant declines and oil is down yet another 6% for the day, with all of this due to an economic situation that relentlessly surprises on the downside. Meanwhile, the Bush administration is obstructing the stimulus program Obama promised last week, the Fed and Treasury are being coy about spending on the TARP program, and Obama has said he won’t attend the G-20 meeting on the 15th. Maybe all those horns honking last Tuesday night were just car alarms.

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