Something Changed

As promised, some thoughts on the election. Also, Harry’s Place are doing a liveblogging thing and Shiraz are also active.

I’ve just watched almost all the BBC’s election coverage. The Beeb really earns its licence fee at times like this with contributions from Christopher Hitchens, Erica Jong, and Jay McInerney in a bar in Times Square (‘This is where the liberal elite hang out’). Well worth the lost sleep.

Naturally I’m glad to see the back of the Bush administration. From the initial steal of the 2000 election to the dismissal of intelligence warnings prior to 9/11 to its disastrous handling of Hurricane Katrina to Guantanamo to phone tapping to rendition flights to tax cuts for billionaires to the support for dictatorships in Saudi Arabia and Uzbekistan to faith-based welfare to its final preposterous legacy of bailing out the super-rich with public money… let’s face it, there are so many reasons why we won’t be missing those sorry bastards.

Not that it has all been bad. Despite the massive civilian casualties, I’m glad America got rid of the Ba’athists and the Taliban, I’m glad it took a stand against Wahabbi terrorism, I’m glad that there are elected governments in Iraq and Afghanistan and I’m proud that our country supported, and continues to support, these efforts against theocracy and fascism. It’s also worth remembering that Bush was the first president to recognise a Palestinian state. It hasn’t all been evil.

Nevertheless it really does feel that we are entering the end of a low dishonest decade and that anything is possible. The GOP did its best to spin the same old lies about the liberal elite to get the working class to vote against its interests. It didn’t work this time. To paraphrase Lincoln, there’s only a certain amount of times you can fool people. I hope Thomas Frank is pleased, and I wish Hunter S Thompson had lived to see this.

So what will happen under President Obama? After the honeymoon period will come the disillusion. People on the left will realise that Obama is not so different in his attitudes towards terror, war and Israel. He wants to wind down the Iraq war but also to step up coalition presence in Afghanistan. And no doubt he’s just in hock to the corporations as those that came before him.

The fact that a black man now leads the free world may do something to curb the moronic and reflexive anti-Americanism that’s so prevalent in liberal thought. It demonstrates to me that the idea of America is still valuable, that the American Dream is worth fighting for, even if American governments aren’t. Perhaps others will realise this – or maybe the old prejudices will just sleep, mutate and reappear in a different form.

From the left’s nastier corners there will be the mutters of ‘house nigger’ and ‘Uncle Tom’. The Islamist right will go much the same way. It’s my hope that these quarters will become less and less relevant as time goes on.

The greatest thing about this night is the turnout. I heard an estimate of 75% – in a country where half the population didn’t vote in 2000 – and it’s clear that loads of people voted who haven’t voted before. Obama spoke of young people ‘rejecting the myth of our generation’s apathy’ and told a story about the 106-year-old black woman voting for the first time in her life. Call it sleep deprivation if you must, but isn’t this just fucking awesome? Is it not unbelievable that the blanket cynicism we have about politics and politicians can give way, at least partially, to something better? Are there now things worth fighting and dreaming for?

Like I said: time will tell. I sit here writing in my loft bedroom as dawn begins to stain the sky over Manchester; and I raise my glass. President Obama, slainte.

Update: Harry’s Place are doing an ‘Uncle Tom Watch.’

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