Tuesday, November 04, 2008

ELECTION DAY USA



1968 was the year when Reverend Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy were assassinated. It was also the year of the My Lai Massacre and the black power salute by Tommy Smith and John Carlos given at the Mexico Olympics. 
Richard Nixon won the election that year and a British politician called Enoch Powell made a speech about Rivers of Blood. 
It was a terrible turbulent  time with the Vietnam War, the crushing of the Prague Spring, and Governor George Wallace of Alabama winning nearly 10 million votes on a pro-segregation platform.

Now 40 years on Senator Barack Obama will be elected President of the USA later today, which shows how much things have changed for the better. 
Whether he will be able to deal with the huge problems he will face after inauguration in January is another matter. I listened last night on the BBC to Harvey Gantt, former Mayor of Charlotte, and first African American to be admitted to Clemson University mention his inexperience with less than three years in the Senate before he began his campaign for the nomination.

Has the electorate been seduced out of thought by charisma? 

President- Elect Obama certainly starts with a fund of  enormous good will from the rest of the world, especially here in the UK. We can only wish him good luck because we need a strong America to get us out of the mess we are in. 

The 1912 election was also one that changed the country and I suspect the four contenders carried both literally and possibly intellectually a bit more weight than the present contenders. But only Teddy Roosevelt was a great moose hunter.

America is never wholly herself unless she is engaged in high moral principle. We as a people have such a purpose today. It is to make kinder the face of the nation and gentler the face of the world.  George H.W. Bush [the senior] Inaugural Address 1989

War should never be entered upon until every agency of peace has failed. 
William McKinley: Inaugural Address 1897

The responsibility of the great states is to serve and not to dominate the world.
Harry Trueman: Address to Congress 1945 

6 Comments:

Blogger Philip said...

All the indications this day are that Barack Obama will win, Norman, and I pray to God that he does, and I think he will, but your flat statement that he will makes me a trifle nervous: we are talking about the United States here, land of the Electoral College system, "Dewey Defeats Truman", hanging chads, Florida 2000, disqualified (African-American) voters, the Bradley Effect, a Republican Supreme Court, right-wing maniacs with guns and what I shall only refer to today as 'the unthinkable'. But we shall know in just a few hours from now and I am optimistic.

Your comment about the intellectual weight of the contenders now and those in 1912 is interesting indeed. Wilson, Roosevelt and Debs had very different sorts of minds, but I should perhaps think them intellectually on a par with one another, Obama at least equal to them, with Taft and McCain a few notches below all of them. I should bear in mind, though, Richard Feynman's comment that there were as many idiots among his colleagues as among the general population, to which I would add that no necessary relation has ever been discovered between intellect on the one hand, and common sense, goodness, decency and similar qualities on the other. Wilson, for example, was a deep-dyed racist who segregated the public service, forced out African-American political appointees, and barred African-Americans from Princeton when he was president of that university. And I listened recently to an astonishly clear recording of Taft making a speech when he was running in 1908 in which he argued for the colonization of the Philippines and against regulation of banks, ahem, ahem.

9:47 AM  
Blogger Uriah Robinson said...

I make the flat statement because I cannot imagine that everyone could get it so wrong again.

The weight of expectation of the world that will be on the shoulders of Obama is going to be overwhelming. When I listen to people saying he is a combination of JFK and Martin Luther King and that makes him unbeatable it is indeed very frightening.

I suppose being a 19th century Virginian was the reason Wilson was so concerned by the rights of the oppressed peoples of Europe and not at all concerned by those of African-Americans at home.

I remember our election in Devon where there was a Liberal Democrat and a Literal Democrat candidate. Enough people voted for the wrong person to keep the Conservatives in. The last election in Scotland produced a few spoiled papers as well so these idiosyncrasies don't only happen in Florida and Ohio.

11:08 AM  
Blogger Philip said...

God, what a relief when states started flipping from red to blue. Until Iowa, New Mexico and Ohio turned, it looked as if that might not happen, and the wee dram of celebratory Glenmorangie I forced on myself when Pennsylvania went blue had to be followed with a wee dram of heartening Glenmorangie just to steady the nerves. But here we are and it is a good day. "There is a tide in the affairs of men/which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune." More like a tsunami, and the earthquake beneath it, the precipitating cause, the financial and economic meltdown. With some help from Sarah Palin, McCain's selection of whom still has me rather boggled, and who caused a complete wipeout of the Republican Party in New England.

Anyway, this is a good day. But I loudly second your observation re weight of expectation, Norman. I hope people do not expect miracles of the man. There are huge problems to be dealt with and, in spite of Dick Cheney's efforts, there is still more to American government than the Oval Office and secret machinations. It takes time, though in this case it is going through my mind that Obama might do well to consider the possibility of a 'first 100 days' in the manner of Lyndon Johnson. When I consider the implications and possibilities in all this, as also those that would have accompanied a McCain win, I have the thought that this may be the most important political event I have observed, both for US and globally.

3:55 AM  
OpenID maxine said...

Philip writes: "no necessary relation has ever been discovered between intellect on the one hand, and common sense, goodness, decency and similar qualities on the other."
I work with some of the cleverest people on the planet and I have long thought (and said) that there is little obvious relationship between intelligence and common sense.

I am glad Obama won, but I think that the expectations placed upon him (as with Tony Blair in 1997) are somewhat unrealistic and contain a large amount of wish-fulfillment on everyone's part. But, it is a positive result and I am looking forward to seeing the direction in which he takes America, after January.

3:58 AM  
Blogger Uriah Robinson said...

We have just come back from a mini break and in our hotel were Americans from Rhode Island who had come to Britain to escape the election fever!
Great expectations and unfortunately almost a poisoned chalice handed over by George W with the economy in such a mess.
Many in the European media have reacted as if President Obama is a sudden phenomenon. The election of an African American was the inevitable result of 140 years of progress and change starting with the excellent black colleges like Fisk, Howard and Shaw Universities founded after the Civil War; through African American mayors of major cities such as Andrew Young in Atlanta and African American Governors of Virginia, New York and Massachusetts; and George Bush appointing Condi Rice and Colin Powell to cabinet posts.

The USA has made a tremendous amount of progress since the dark days of the 1960s.

7:40 AM  
Blogger Uriah Robinson said...

We have just come back from a mini break and in our hotel were Americans from Rhode Island who had come to Britain to escape the election fever!
Great expectations and unfortunately almost a poisoned chalice handed over by George W with the economy in such a mess.
Many in the European media have reacted as if President Obama is a sudden phenomenon. The election of an African American was the inevitable result of 140 years of progress and change starting with the excellent black colleges like Fisk, Howard and Shaw Universities founded after the Civil War; through African American mayors of major cities such as Andrew Young in Atlanta and African American Governors of Virginia, New York and Massachusetts; and George Bush appointing Condi Rice and Colin Powell to cabinet posts.

The USA has made a tremendous amount of progress since the dark days of the 1960s.

7:40 AM  

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