The initial euphoria over Barack Obama
Obamamania is what is on, although the sky high expectations would make any President nervous. Here are some excerpts from the media and the blogosphere:
A few excerpts from the reactions of the international media:
- The International Herald Tribune talked about how America had “leaped” across the color line.
- UK’s The Guardian compared Obama’s achievement with Roosevelt’s of 1932 and Reagan’s of 1980 and the tabloid Daily Mirror headline said “GOBAMA!”, a complete contrast to what it had said when George W. Bush was re-elected in 2004. Their headline had then asked “How can 59,054,087 people be so DUMB?”
- Germany’s Der Spiegel’s praised Obama, saying that he had an “ability to remain untouched by all the razzmatazz” around him. The tabloid Bild wrote “Messiah Obama” and talked about how everyone was in love with Obamerica.
- China Daily said they were “elated at his landslide win” and believed that China would have every reason to anticipate a more friendly America.”
- Singapore’s Professor Kishore Mahbubani felt that Obama’s election will significantly reduce anti-Americanism.
- The Times of India believed that Obama would be India-friendly and talked about two images of America: One of a “bullying superpower” and the other that of a “land of hope and opportunity”. And that it is the latter that Obama epitomizes.
- The Kenya Times called Obama “the foremost blaze-trailing son of this land.”
- In Israel, the daily newspaper Haaretz called the U.S. election an “example of democracy at its best.”
- Russia’s Pravda said that “Eight years of hell are over.”
- Australia, the Sydney Morning Herald called Obama’s win a “stunning grassroots political movement, powered by massive multi-million dollar fundraising.”
- Prime Minister of Spain has said that Barack Obama’s election has “kindled a feeling of hope in the real capacity to build a better world.”
- France’s Liberation said: “For the first time, an African-American and a woman were candidates for the highest office in the land. It seems like America could teach us a thing or two about democracy”. French writer and philosopher Bernard-Henri Lévy has said that “never will an American election have excited in the rest of the world a hope at once so crazy and so reasoned.”
- The Australian asked: “Which other big, rich, predominantly white society has elected a member of a racial minority to be its head of government? Not Australia”.
Cautious notes were struck by:
- UAE’s Arabic daily, Al Khaleej. The newspaper was cynical and believed that “whoever is the winner” the White House would favour Israel.
- Qatar’s Al Jazeera believed that Obama’s election was an anti-incumbency vote.
- Khaleej Times in Dubai listed “Things to do for President Obama” and said he had a lot to do.
- The Japanese news agency Kyodo mentioned that Obama had a “daunting” task ahead of him to repair the economy.
- Italy’s Il Giornale warned that “He’s Just A President. Not the Messiah.”
- Here is an interesting quote from Josef Joffe, a German Journalist and political scientist:
Europeans want to love America again, and they imagine that a simple act of exorcism (called “elections”) will rid them of the curse. But politics is not about redemption. Obama is not what West Europeans dream he is: polite, social-democratic and pacific. In other words, more European than American. Will the Euroswooners still love Obama when he presses them for more troops in Afghanistan and real sanctions on Iran?
Some opinions from the blogsphere:
- Here is an aol video which gives a summary of blogger reactions after Obama’s win.
- Paul believes that Americans are a pragmatic people and “Obama’s best chance to realign the electorate is to successfully implement policies that work, regardless of their ideological label, to solve the problems facing us.”
- Texas Liberal (Neil) says “Maybe better days have finally arrived. Maybe I can now eat away at the many layered lasagna of resentment, instead of having the resentment eat away at me.”
- Vikram feels that the Obama-mania sweeping urban English-speaking Indians is perhaps a good thing in the sense that it atleast got them thinking about Indian ‘Obamas.’
- Shefaly has analysed why Obama won. She says that “his success story is underscored by a sense of ‘otherness’ whether on account of his mixed-race background, his academic accolades, his relative greenness in politics or his style of politics. And she also suggests that like Obama did, “Let us wear our ‘otherness’ lightly; recognise that it is a part of our identity, not our entire identity.”
- Indian Homemaker compares Obama to Mahatma Gandhi as he “gave each one of us hope of a better day…”
I also found a survey which encapsulated reactions of people across the across the world, those who never voted but had strong opinions nonetheless. The survey was taken only amongst those respondents who were following the American election. What is fascinating that while the American public was almost evenly divided between Obama and McCain, other countries were more polarised, a strong majority either with Obama or with McCain.
Here is the graph from Pew Research:
Do we all need learn lessons from the American election?
A lot of the international media wondered whether a minority candidate could have similar success in their countries. Speaking of India, well, we have people from minority communities as well as from downtrodden groups who have been elected to various senior political posts, although most may have been elected by their own communities, not by a broad section of society. Unless the latter happens I guess we will not fully mature as a democracy.
I have not studied it in-depth but on the face of it I quite like America’s system of electing just two senators from each state. As each U.S state is represented by two senators, and it is not based on population, there are several benefits. One is that the fewer number of candidates ensures that votes are not splintered between many candidates (this is so important in India where people vote on the basis of their own group) and secondly no one state dominates over another. What will happen (in India) if we follow this is that elected candidates will get a bigger share of the vote, and owing their election victory to a broader base, will work towards doing things for all communities. Well, I don’t know whether this is possible in India as we have a different political system, but the idea seems attractive and the only way to ensure that candidates get votes from all sections of the public.
(The photograph is from Time Magazine and the graph from Pew)