Americans deserve credit, by electing Barack Obama they have shown the world what America stands for and that they truly are an exceptional nation. Unfortunately, in the process, Mr. Obama has been handed a burden he might not be able to overcome.
Whether you are conservative, liberal, independent, agnostic or simply apathetic, all must concede that Barack Obama’s victory on November 4th was nothing short of astonishing. Against all odds Obama single handedly defeated two of history’s most formidable electoral establishments: the Clintons and the Republican Party. In this respect Mr. Obama deserves all the credit he has received for successfully completing the task of winning a presidential election as an African American man. However, Mr. Obama’s truly difficult task begins once he inherits the Oval office. History will judge Mr. Obama not only for the outcome of his election but by the performance of his administration. And task ahead of the next president is daunting.
On November 4th, 2008 America reminded the world why it is the single most tolerant, democratic and free nation where anything is truly possible if someone is willing to fight for a dream. America has achieved ‘color-blindness’ thanks in no small part to its largely successful assimilation of its minorities into the mainstream society. While Europe seems to be drifting towards a worrying path of extremism, xenophobia and rejection of is immigrant population, be it legal or illegal. On the contrary, America has overwhelmingly elected a black president by the Muslim name of Barack Hussein Obama. This historic milestone has occurred at a time of economic crisis, while the country is engaged in two foreign wars, and yet Americans still chose this man as the leader of the free world. Needless to say the behavior of the two populations, European and American could not be any different.
Before Barack Obama, it was a virtually inconceivable concept that a person of an ethnic minority (particularly African American) could reach the country’s highest office. But Americans have once again shown the globe their capacity to lead, while also reminding us all that ‘American exceptionalism’ is very much alive. Americans have consistently demonstrated to the world, and to Europe in particular, that instead of marginalizing and discriminating their minorities, they must be treated as equal citizens and integrated into mainstream society. This has allowed for the capitalization of an immense pool of knowledge, diversity and innovation that these individuals bring to society. There is hardly a clearer example of the differences between America and Europe, when days after America elected its first African American president, German chancellor Angela Merkel called upon the German population to stop the xenophobia and fight against racism.
Obama’s task: treading carefully in uncharted waters
As we move forward to begin a new chapter in American history, is it important to fully understand before this new administration begins that Mr. Obama, just like any other president before him, will not be able to deliver on the majority of his idealistic campaign promises. Messiahs do not exist in politics and miracles seldom occur. However, Mr. Obama’s task is even more daunting than any of his predecessors. He not only has to deal with the commonly understood challenges that any other candidate regardless of their political affiliation would have had to face (economic recession, wars, unemployment, illegal immigration, Iran etc), but Mr. Obama also carries with him a torch in the name of minorities worldwide, all of whom will be eagerly looking to him with high expectations. One of the greatest expectations of Mr. Obama will be to prove to the world that, race and ethnicity are no parameters by which to judge an individual or their capabilities to lead. Mr. Obama will be closely watched by his supporters as well as his enemies, and both will be quick to call him out on any display of weakness or failure to deliver on promises. Some overly eager supporters will inevitably be disappointed (perhaps they deserve to be), others will be impressed, but ultimately Mr. Obama holds the keys for any future president to be elected from a minority,
The racial test is still not quite over for America
Americans displayed an enviable level of higher thinking, by rising above the racial divisions of the past and to judge a man based on the arguments and policies that he presented. Nevertheless, just as any other democratically elected leader, Mr. Obama is not immune to failure, and history teaches us that even the mightiest of leaders can fail miserably (lest we forget the lesson of Richard Nixon who carried 49 states in the 1972 presidential elections, only to be forced to resign 2 years later). Americans must take measure of this fact if Mr. Obama’s presidency were to end in failure. Furthermore, Americans would be unwise and unjust, to have shown such high thinking by electing a man based on the content of his character, only to judge the outcome of his presidency on his ethnic background if he were to fail. Therein lays the final question for America’s racial test.
Fair or not, this is the heavy burden that Mr. Obama carries. Society will undoubtedly use his presidency to judge, possibly stigmatize and ultimately set the precedence for any ‘non-white’ person’s competence and ability to occupy the Oval office in the future. Democracy Vanguard recognizes Mr. Obama’s historic victory, albeit differing significantly with Mr. Obama’s views on the economy and foreign policy. However, we wish the president-elect well during his tenure, for the world requires a successful US president. However, it is for the abovementioned burden that Democracy Vanguard hopes that Mr. Obama exceeds our expectations. It would be unjust for America to revert back to raising racial or stereotypical barricades on the presidency based on the actions of Mr. Obama. There are very capable people in every minority and everyone should have an equal chance at the presidency. Just as the majority of Americans wish not be judged based upon the actions of George W. Bush, so too must they not judge minorities based on the unforeseen actions of Mr. Obama. Only time will tell how Americans judge the Obama administration, but we must all appeal to the same tolerant level of high thinking that brought them to elect the ‘post-racial’ president.
by: Luis F Jimenez
Edited: Michelle Rutt