Tuesday, November 04, 2008

election day

There have been many moments in this presidential race when I have felt rather alienated from the excitement. By the time I came around to supporting him, tentatively it has to be said, Oxford was already swept up in a tidal wave of Obamamania. I was/am irritated by the facile assumptions that a Democratic victory would change everything for the better - a view that neglects the bipartisan consensus on a lot of the bullshit that forms a kind of bedrock for US foreign policy (leader of Free World etc.). I am concerned that with all the excitement over individual agents, we lose sight of structural constraints - the pathways that leaders are locked into by previous decisions - thereby setting ourselves up for immense and inevitable disappointment. I was ambivalent about the extent to which I should attempt to influence, in my own small way, the electoral process of a sovereign state: yes it affects me too, but participation seems like acquiescence in its imperial overlordship (what did anti-colonial nationalists do everytime there was an election in Westminster? lobby? fundraise? sit on the sidelines?). And a very tiny part of me is, frankly, terrified by the prospect of an Obama victory: what happens when tremendous power is harnessed to tremendous legitimacy? The only thing worse than an unpopular emperor is a popular one.

But when all the caveats are made and reservations entered, when I have worked through my Gramscian intellectual pessimism and gotten around to thinking from another place in my head, the hugeness of the moment is blindingly obvious. If Obama wins (and I say if because I am worried about the illegal aunt, the Bradley effect, faulty voting machines, weary voters, bad weather, a terrorist attack, swiftboats, hanging chads, Supreme Court judges, an act of fricking God) - if Obama won, many things will not change and in some ways everything will change. These days when I read Martin Luther King's words, I hear Obama's voice. This is, quite simply, a moment of renewal for the nation, a chance to deepen its democracy. Please, even if the queues are four hours long today, vote Obama.

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