The Election as Signal to the World

Over the Christmas weekend Frank advanced an argument in favor of Barack Obama that remains to my mind the top-line argument in his favor: that the simple fact of his election president of the United States will have a dramatic effect on the world’s perception of the U.S. Born in one of the middle provinces of the American empire (Hawaii) to a Kenyan father and a white mother, doing part of his growing up in Indonesia, with a name like Barack Hussein Obama, may people of the world may look at the new U.S. president and see something of themselves and of an America beyond the arrogant frat-boy entitlement of the Bush administration.

On the first episode after being strong-armed back from the writers’ strike, Stephen Colbert had Andrew Sullivan on to make the same argument (Colbert Report, Comedy Central, Monday, 7 January 2008):

If you show just that face of Barack Obama on television to some teenager in Lahore, Pakistan who has this vision of America that has been determined by the Bush-Cheney years, suddenly more than any word his opinion and view of this country will change. We have a chance to win those people over and make the world love America again.

With his cover feature in last month’s Atlantic Monthly (“Goodby to All That,” vol. 300, no. 5, December 2007, pp. 40-54), Andrew Sullivan perhaps the Senator’s most outstanding booster in the commentariat. But he is also about the most naïve of the astute political commentators, prone to enthusiasms that in retrospect look premature so I’m going to keep my own counsels.

The campaign for the presidency doesn’t end at the convention and the presidency is not just election night. After convention one has to face the Republican machine and after the inauguration there are another 1,460 days and I just don’t know that Senator Obama has what it takes in either arena.

Considing that the entire world expected a repudiation of George W. Bush on election night in 2004 and that we did not deliver, a more dramatic gesture is now in order. I like John Edwards because he is the most liberal of the top three, but with a woman and an African-American within striking distance, it would be a shame to send another white man to the White House.