I voted for Barack Obama. I donated money to his campaign several times. I phonebanked for him. So I am very, very happy that he has won; I am relieved; and I am hopeful.
Still, campaign slogans notwithstanding, the idealists who think Obama will change everything have no brains; and the cynics who think Obama will change nothing have no heart.
Obama probably can: nominate liberal Supreme Court judges so that disastrous decisions like those of the past 8 years (e.g., Ledbetter v. Goodyear) can perhaps be avoided; put checks and balances in place to manage the $700 billion bailout (excuse me, the “rescue plan”) so that, instead of being completely fucked, the taxpaper will be maybe, maybe less fucked; reinstate a few of the banking regulations that had been eroded under Bill Clinton and eliminated under George W. Bush; provide incentives for the creation of green-collar jobs; set up some sort of basic health care system; extend the existing dialogue with Iran and avoid additional confrontation there; draw a timetable for withdrawal from Iraq; close Guantanamo Bay. But Obama probably can’t: change foreign policy on Israel and Palestine in any drastic or even significant way; draw troops from Iraq and Afghanistan immediately or unconditionally; bring high-level military personnel who were responsible for torture in Abu Ghraib or Guantanamo Bay in front of U.S. courts; take a public stand in favor of gay marriage; or build a Canadian-style or Australian-style health care system.
The United States is headed in the wrong direction. In fact, it would not be too much an exaggeration to say that, if current policies and trends are not reversed, the United States is headed for its demise. American voters have sensed this, which is why they’ve elected Obama. After eight years of disaster after disaster, I think some people were ready to settle for a president who can speak grammatical English. Electing Obama means that the country can start regrouping after neo-con rule and begin the long, slow process of change. It was the smart choice.
But it’s also the symbolic choice. Having an African-American president will go a long way toward opening the office of the presidency to all people–of all colors, races, religions, and creeds. It gives a lot of young voters who worked so hard for their candidate a chance to believe in the future of their country. And it represents the triumph of hope and belief over fear and cynicism.