Nov 07

A Symbolic Victory


America elected Barack Obama again today. It’s some achievement, considering how bad their economy is. But then Mitt Romney never looked like he could win. I was surprised he was the Republican candidate after losing the race to John McCain last time around.

There are plenty of people who are going to talk about the problems with Obama. The fact that he’s not really liberal. His drone attacks. His failure to address the economic problems of his first four years. His attempt to be bi-partisan which pretty much failed.

But I love him.

I love him because he’s a black man, leading the most diverse country on earth. I love him because he’s a great speaker. I love him because he stood up for gay rights. I love him because he’s a Democrat, whatever that means.

And I hate what stood against him.

I hate anyone who oppresses women, or supports anyone who oppresses women, or shares a platform with anyone who oppresses women. I respect your opinion about abortion, but it’s every woman’s right to choose. 

I hate rich, American capitalists who watch the stock market as an indicator of success. 

I hate people who talk about socialised medicine. I’ve met them, and they don’t even know what they are talking about. They can’t even define the thing. 

I hate people who hate gays, blacks, immigrants. Who hate non-believers. Who hate the people that their favourite talk show host hates.

I very, very rarely talk about hate, but in this situation it seems apt.

Symbolism, Not Real Change

Anyway, either way, it feels more like a symbolic victory than a real turning point. America’s political system seems to be, as far as I can tell from listening to American radio and speaking to friends who work there, fucked. Special interests rule. Senators and congresswomen are spending four, five, six hours a day raising money - literally calling up people themselves to ask for money - rather than legislating for the people. And the legislation reflects this reality. Acts that have no special interest get no time.

Obama and the Democrats are as bad as the Republicans for this. Apparently, if you’re on his email list, you got an email every day for six months in the run-up to the election asking you for money. Every single day. Now I know that mathematically that probably works out, but what the fuck is the experience of that? What happens when that stops, and the same old same old continues? How do you feel about politics when your political cycle is two years campaigning followed by two years of failing to get anything of any real meaning done? Seriously.

Apparently the Democrats raised, and spent, a billion dollars. To Romney’s $800 million. And another billion from the super PACs. So you could say that Obama bought the election. Is this a democracy?

The Real Change Is In The Demographics

The demographic changes are interesting though. For older people, 81% are white. For people a little younger than me, that drops to 61%. For the age group of 0-8, less than half of Americans are white. Less. Than. Half. That’s pretty staggering.

Latino voters are being added at a rate of 50,000 per month. That’s 50,000 new hispanic voters turning 18 every month. 600,000 each year. Two and a half million in a presidential term. That means that since George Bush Junior won that election in 2000 there are ten million new hispanic votes.

And they won’t necessarily vote Democrat. Like the Eritrean cab driver I had in Indianapolis, who shocked me by saying that he liked Obama, but not as much as he had liked Bush. (Indiana, incidentally, was one of only two states to go from Democrat to Republican last night).

When Politics Fails, Symbolism Is Enough

But let’s go back to the symbolic victory. A black man, with a black family and a hugely diverse crowd celebrating the diversity of America. You can argue all you want about the policies and the actions. But symbols matter too, and that is a fucking powerful symbol. More powerful than anything we have in the UK, where the dominant symbolism is all Eton and Oxford.

And the women. The women who carried the marginal states. The women who were told they had no control, not only over their pregnancies, but perhaps even over the possibility of pregnancies. Who were told that God wanted them to have the babies they conceived during rape. Mitt Romney, in what was a pretty gracious concession, even managed to thank those who had helped on his campaign ‘and their wives’. Jesus.

Even the symbolic victory rang true there. Obama, surrounded by Michelle and his daughters. Romney, commiserating with his sons, oh, and their wives.

As Mike Monteiro said, never ever underestimate the women.

Hillary up next?

This is my personal, non-American view of what happened last night. If you want to add anything, or berate me, reach out to @myddelton.