Modern American elections might as well be considered international elections, and Nov. 4 the international community’s wish was granted. Across the globe, people celebrated Barack Obama’s victory as a triumph and a harbinger of great things to come. Indeed, even though American voters actually elected Obama, millions of invisible hands around the world passed him along as he crowd-surfed his way to the presidency. Nearly everyone outside the United States wants to see Obama lead this country; do we want him as well?
In reality, we need Obama. In the midst of two unending wars, an economic recession and a laundry list of other social, political and environmental woes, we need someone with whom we can sincerely identify and trust. We’re not asking our next president to ameliorate all of society’s ills. Asking a single individual to fix all these chronic problems in one term is ludicrous; no one candidate and his administration could ever accomplish such a lofty feat, but we do need someone we can rally around as we struggle onwards.
In a recent talk at Northeastern University in Boston, The Daily Show host Jon Stewart addressed several issues surrounding the 2008 election, including the role of the chief executive. Without a doubt, Stewart is sorely disappointed with the current administration’s performance over the past eight years and is particularly dismayed by President George W. Bush’s problematic leadership. In describing his ideal candidate, Stewart stressed that the president should be, “Embarrassingly smarter than me. I want him to be one of those science fiction guys with the giant throbbing heads.” The desire to have a president who is genuinely intelligent, determined and charismatic instead of a good ol’ boy is no longer a pipedream of the American people, and in an ideal electoral process, we should not have to choose between the lesser of two evils but rather the best of multiple promising candidates.
Fortunately for us, Obama conveys a positive externality on Americans, whether we are privy to it or not. Namely, having Obama as our next president means our image abroad will improve, and all of us, regardless of who voted for Obama, will reap the benefits of this newfound respect of and renewed trust in America. Obviously, this does not mean that everyone is going to start praising our country or shed their entrenched beliefs about American foreign policy, but at least some may begin to see that we’re not all heartless bastards. Likewise, Obama seeks to foster more dialogue between allies and adversaries alike, which will hopefully subdue widely held views that America is merely a colonizing empire hell-bent on expanding its influence overseas. Obama has thus the responsibility, as well as the capability, to develop a more nuanced picture of America today.
At this point, despairing that John McCain lost or that Obama is too inexperienced is like crying over spilt milk because Obama will become president of the United States this coming January. We have to live with the choice. McCain himself realized this amidst boo’s from his own supporters during his concession speech night, and he is ready once again to reach across the aisle to get things done. On the other hand, even though many Americans have reached an optimistic high this past week, the next four years are going to be an uphill battle. However, if we do not show up with Obama at the starting line, hopes of bipartisan cooperation will be dashed.
Obama’s platform is not floating on hot air. Beneath his campaign’s hypnotic rhetoric and the mantras “Yes we can” and “It’s time for change” there is a common denominator: a feeling of genuine hope. After eight years of Bush, perhaps people are ready for anything, but an incoming Obama administration means more than just a transfer of power and a breath of fresh air. More importantly, it means America has the opportunity to redefine itself at home and on the international stage, a long-awaited reward for electing a long-awaited president.