December 16, 2008

Why this determination to paint Barack Obama as an underdog?

In the primaries, the polarised race quickly came down to Obama or Hillary Clinton: and Obama did not enter it with an anyone but Obama millstone around his neck.

In the election, both Obama and John McCain had to run against George W. Bush's record: but Obama did not have the additional handicap of belonging to the same party. Nor did the talk show hosts quickly latch onto, well, anything Obama-related, the same way every media icon latched onto John McCain's age, as well as his having been born in what was then the American Panama Canal Zone. Where have been the mockings of his middle name? where the parodies of that famous megawatt smile?

(How on earth have both Obama and Bush been able to paint themselves so successfully as the working man's candidates, the decent people, the salt of the earth? Can a candidate still openly run on his or her credentials if they happen to include higher schooling in a non-law, non-business, non-political science field? or has the public will shifted strongly enough against academia to make such a candidate a non-starter?)

Throughout, there has been a very determined effort to paint any real questioning of Obama's record or abilities as racist ... but where was the equivalent for misogyny or ageism?

All that being said: so far, Obama has certainly been making many of the moves needed to govern the United States effectively in these times. Once his speeches escaped the clich├ęs, he started being very direct and bluntly honest about the reality of the situation, something that has been rather lacking in the past decade. His appointments define mending fences. The choices he is making focus on competence, not cronyism and certainly not blind agreement. The only prerequisite other than competence seems to be that they will be able to work together, and so far his appointments are not creating any reasons why they should not.

He is threading the needle between who is in power and who cannot be yet, but must be prepared to hit the ground running. After all, there is a reason why there is such reluctance to change leadership in times of crisis. So far, Obama is sending all the right signals that when the time comes, his team will be ready.

Come January, we will see.

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