There is something special to America. You do feel part of it. When President Obama walked on stage in Chicago, he spoke of things stripped of the political veils and layers that campaigns demand to avoid saying too much too fast. He sang the praises of the country but gave it a new direction too, a task far easier in words than in practice in a relatively polarized country. Backed up by a little over half of the preferences, he spoke as one who wants to affirm himself, rather than appraise his listeners. And while the feedback of the crowd was touching, his words must have sounded threatening to those who never considered giving him a chance. He stated his views paying respect to those of the opposition but hinted that he would not compromise. His words resonated powerfully, escaping the dryness of the debates on economics and heading straights to rights deep rooted in beliefs which, I fear, are not overwhelmingly shared. Having survived the popular disappointment for his unfulfilled promises, Obama must now pursue a more aggressive strategy, one that will translate his heritage into a shift in beliefs more than into an implementation of policies. The chances that this second term will entrust the President a more favorable situation in Washington vanished in the face of a renewed Republican majority in the Congress. To the risk of sounding cynical, I am hopeful that America will embrace the wind of reform that Obama wants to push forward but I am by no means optimistic about it. At the same time, it would be ungenerous to measure the success of Obama’s second term only by what he will be able to accomplish. This is a prerogative that I am happy to leave to the next Republican contender to the White House.
There is a mismatch between the shift in beliefs and the introduction of policies that, more or less forcefully, validate such beliefs in society. Obama has touched on this point, saying that progress doesn’t proceed in a straight line but instead in a path paved by fierce disagreements and endless frustrations. In his first term, the opposition forced the President to mitigate his most sensitive policies and, in some instances, denatured them beyond recognition. In the current political situation, Obama will face familiar hurdles and one must be realistic and recognize that he might have to accept substandard outcomes on topics such as healthcare and social rights. In my view, the value of this reelection is already apparent in the validation that society offered around the principles constituting the staple of the Obama’s campaign. America is the country of freedom and endless possibilities but the President has finally voiced out loud that principles are meaningless in the absence of suitable instruments for their implementation. The implications are tremendous because they call for a direct involvement of the dreaded federal government in matters of social welfare. The free-market myth has crumbled under the blows of the financial crisis, exposing all the shortcomings of an America where an increasingly large part of society discovered itself poorer, unwarranted and short-sighted. During the electoral campaign, Republicans often confused social change with social degradation and social rights with unduly intrusion of the federal government in the free market. If this electoral defeat will force the Republicans to reassess the actual state of the country they aim to guide, Obama’s heritage will be felt long after his second term. Here is where the power of this reelection lies. In recognizing that the social structure of America has changed, Obama can continuously expose what Republicans have refused to see. And little matter if not all of the issues will find a match in suitable policies. If the President can consolidate in society the beliefs that won him the reelection, sooner or later some of those will spill over into the Republican field. Not long ago the possibility of an Afro-American President was unthinkable but now, looking forward to 2016, the odds of having a black Republican candidate are not as low as they used to be. My hope is that the same will occur for homosexuality, basic healthcare, unemployment assistance and education. Obama must now remember Americans that these topics are real problems that span across the whole spectrum of the political field. The socialist label has been attached to these issues for so long and it’s now time to drop it. It’s time to level the playing field.
“Hope, forward!” is what you get by merging the mottos of the last two Democratic campaigns. In Obama’s words “hope is that stubborn thing inside us that insists, despite all the evidence to the contrary, that something better awaits us so long as we have the courage to keep reaching, to keep working, to keep fighting”. As a non American affected by chronic political disillusionment (thank you Silvio by the way), I am surprised to see how passionate and involved I have lived these last few days. American elections have never been about America only. Words mean the same no matter who pronounces them but they weight terribly different when coming from the President of the USA. It is naive to think that they will lead to worldwide change but it is equally naive to believe that they will not resonate with people in distant countries. Cynics will say that they are just another example of soft power, just another way to keep America as the reference country. I’m not dismissing this, but I can’t help thinking that those words serve to validate principles that undisputedly mean social progress. He spoke to inspire and thankfully inspiration is not a function of the passport you hold.
This reelection fills me up with a sense of ethical satisfaction. Things I believe in are validated around me. By the President and by fellow students at Fletcher, with whom I gathered, waited and celebrated. When the announcement came in, the hope that Obama would win gave in to the hope of seeing more of that change that won us over in the first place. Such a powerful feeling, hope. One great singer once said that hope is the highest form of religion, because regardless of what you believe in, you just must believe.
Hope is a light that never goes out and it feels great to see it shine bright and shared tonight.