U.S. history in the making

2008-11-05 00:00

By this morning many readers will have a fair idea of the outcome of the United States presidential elections and, barring some electoral complication, there should be a final result by the end of the day.

As Democratic candidate Barack Obama said this week, the election is “a defining moment” in U.S. history. Certainly the world is alert to the importance of the election, which has been under more intense international scrutiny than any other, perhaps because the differences between the candidates and their parties are symbolic, not only of the divisions within the U.S., but of those in the world as a whole.

Thus, on one side is John McCain, an ageing and archetypal establishment Wasp, conservative, embodying and promoting old or traditional values. He’s also a man with an exemplary military record — although this derived from what’s been seen as the controversial, if not shameful, Vietnam War. McCain is a product of the society that created the Bush administration and all its problems — and one wonders how successful his attempts to put as much distance as he can between that administration and himself will be. He suffers from a Bush-like tunnel vision, reactionary and isolationist, seeing the world from an American point of view only. Under his leadership the U.S. would continue to be condemned as hardline, heartless, with a penchant for enforcing arbitrary decisions with a heavy hand.

On the other side is Obama, a man of mixed race and culture. He’s very much an American, much younger than McCain, bright, well-educated and from a privileged middle-class background, but he’s seen by the developing world as a man in touch with the plight of ordinary people and an expression of the hope that the days of monolithic domination by the U.S. may be drawing to an end. His view of the world is inclusive rather than exclusive like McCain’s, and with him as leader the U.S. would surely be encouraged to take a softer, more empathetic approach to other nations, creating better — and stronger and more durable — relationships in time.

This is indeed an epic, landmark election. The outline above indicates which of the two candidates appears to be the healthier choice for American and global well being, but until the results are in the world will have no clear idea of the mind-set of the American electorate, and it is they who will decide.

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