05 November 2008

Politics and pessimism

So it looks as though Barack Obama is going to win the US Presidential election, and that the Democratic Party in the US will have a majority in the legislature as well.

No doubt his supporters will be elated.

For myself, I'm relieved, rather than happy.

I'm relieved that the nightmare of an unpredictable warmongering president of the US threatening to start World War III that has dominated the last eight years may be over.

I think there are many others who feel the same way.

There is widespread relief around the world that the Bush years are almost over.

But why not elation?

I suppose for me the reason is that history has shown that the Democratic Party in the US is no less inclined to war-mongering than the Republican Party. It's just slightly less lunatic and unpredictable about it.

Bush (father and son) may have bombed Baghdad, but I cannot forget that it was Clinton, a Democrat, who bombed Belgrade.

And it was his colleague Madeleine Albright who forced war on Yugoslavia with just as much manic determination as George Bush II forced it on Iraq, and it was she, who, when asked if the lives of half a million Iraqi children was a price worth paying for American hegemony in the Middle East, said "We think the price is worth it."

But in another respect, one can hope for better things. Under Bill Clinton's Demcratic Party the US at least had balanced budgets, while the Republican administration of George Bush spent like there was no tomorrow, and have left the mess for Barack Obama to pick up. Will eight years be enough to sort out the mess that George Bush left?

So I hope Barack Obama lives up to the hopes that have been placed in him. I think back to the time when Tony Blair was elected as Prime Minister of the UK, and the hopes he aroused. Like Obama, he was young and dynamic and was a new broom promising change. But in the end he was a disappointment, and turned out to be as much a warmonger as Bill Clinton and George Bush combined.

Of course young dynamic leaders are attractive, but age is not necessarily a barrier. In South Africa Nelson Mandela was the best President or Prime Minister the coutnry has ever had since the union was formed in 1910, and he was also, at the time he was elected, probably the oldest.

His successors seem determined to destroy his legacy by squabbling over the spoils of office in bitter personal rivalries and factions. It is sad to see the ANC destroying itself like that.

There's much talk about Mbhazima Shilowa and Terror Lekota forming a new party, which has been dubbed "Shikota" by journalists. But they somehow don't bring as much hope as Barack Obama. I wonder how much they are driven by principle, and how much by sour grapes. Shilowa at least had the vision of an integrated transport system for Gauteng, and the progress in building the new commuter train line between Johannesburg and Pretoria is a tribute to his vision and energy. So perhaps there is some hope there.

Well, I hope Barack Obama will live up to the hopes of his supporters. I hope he will not start any new wars, and that he will succeed in bringing an end to the ones started by his predecessors. But somehow I don't think history is on his side. Undoing the damage done by George Bush in the US and in the world may take a lot more than eight years, more likely eight generations.

See also Abstractions: Remember, remember, the 5th of November..., with some interesting links.

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