Tuesday, November 04, 2008
Why Obama? Some folks, after reading The Clarion Content's endorsement of Obama, they felt that we were advocating a vote for Obama because he is a black person. This is not the case it all. We would be similarly impressed with the American electorate's selection of Barack Obama were he a Jew, an Inuit, a female, a gay person or a member of any religious, racial, gender or sexual orientation that America has not yet elected. But that still misses the point, we are not advocating Barack Obama as the fulfillment of some sort of affirmative action program, some sort of country sized balancing act that says all members of all races, creeds, religions, genders and sexual orientations must do some time in power, that could hardly be further from our libertarian hearts. What we are saying is that Obama's achievement, even getting this far, verifies the notion of the American meritocracy, and that in and of itself is extremely important.
How and why?
How first. Obama's candidacy, and hopefully, his election verifies the American meritocracy because of what he has achieved; Harvard Law Review Editor, Professor, Senator, United States Presidential candidate. As we said in our endorsement of Obama, Larry Page and Sergey Brin say a lot about American meritocracy. In their own way, they verify that nearly anything is possible here. However because their triumphs are outside the unique world of politics, they are not quite the same. There is still at least one realm in America that may or may not be open to all. Obama's background is far different than those of the outgoing president (son of a president) or that of his opponent (son of a USN Admiral.) Obama's background includes his race, though it is but one element. It also includes his family's modest financial circumstances, a single parent home, a first generation immigrant father, an enlisted grandfather, a goat herder grandfather... and all the elements that make up his story. He is, as he says, "unlikely to be standing before you." But in America, it is possible. It is the good face of American exceptionalism.
Why is that important? It is because motive and motivation are the hardest parts. Motive refers to the external, motivation to the internal. We are going to work inside out. Motivation. How does Obama's verification of the American meritocracy play out in terms of motivation? The Clarion Content believes extremely well. Already Obama has been a motivating force for millions of people who don't usually or had not previously engaged in the political process to get involved. He has inspired, but that is only the tip of the iceberg of the good that can come from it. If Obama can get elected that will provide motivation to millions more disenchanted Americans. Obama shows that you don't have to be rich, you don't have to belong to a certain race, you don't have to go to a certain church. Success is possible for anyone in America. The Clarion Content believes simply by being a living example Obama motivates and will motivate many young Americans to work harder. He is the embodiment of the old "See Johnny, you can grow up to be president. That's why you have to study hard now," kind of parental logic. He is the proof in the pudding. His Daddy didn't get him into the National Guard or for that matter into the Naval Academy. Obama is a self-made man and that will provide untold motivation to the American people from students to entrepreneurs to aspiring politicians. That is the internal component of the benefit to the verification of the American meritocracy of Obama's election.
The external component we referred to as motive. Motive is far different than motivation. Motive is about the open ended and hopefully not endless war on terrorism. (The Clarion refuses to dignify such a vile construction with capital letters. It is farcical.) The Clarion Content does not believe it is possible to win such a conflict through force alone, without including unacceptable options, such as genocide. It is simply not possible to kill every Muslim or separatist who disagrees with some element of American policy. Of course, that is not quite what the war on terror implies. In practice its disturbing ability to find and even create non-existent connections between conflicts as far flung as Mindanao and Chechnya has built a worldwide perception of America the enforcer. America on the offense was the Bush doctrine. America will attack before being attacked. Obama's election will change some of that from a policy direction, (though not enough to suit the CC's taste.) More importantly though, America's naysayers from the radical madrasses of Saudi Arabia to the halls of the Venezuelan capital have less capacity to attack the American dream and the American project. Obama the person erodes that ability, Obama the person denies the validity of their claims. Obama gives hope because he de facto proves (via background) that what America claims about itself, "the land of opportunity" is indeed true. It is not simply that he is well liked in Europe and the Middle East (outside of Israel,) it is that he is living proof of the story that America is trying to sell and living denial of the story despots offer about America. America's system finds these individuals and allows them to succeed. This incentivizes precisely the best of what America is trying to promote, the meritocracy, the conviction that ability is rewarded on a playing field leveled by the rule of law. This soft sell of the American way is, of course, far more powerful than moving another carrier group to the Persian Gulf or another division of troops to the mountains of Afghanistan. Obama the individual says America is not only a 'can do' country it is an 'anyone can do' country.
It is not, as we said at the opening of this piece, about electing Obama because of his race, though it would be foolish to cast that aside entirely for it is surely an integral element of who he is, and who the American electorate sees him as, rather it is about the verification of the American dream, the American claim to exceptionalism. His campaign proves it already. It is one of the biggest reasons why the Clarion Content long preferred Obama's candidacy to that of Senator Hillary Clinton. Clinton, at this point in time, represented an elitist continuity with the past in contravention of the American dream. Her spouse had been president, for her to subsequently become president felt viscerally like something that occurs in Sri Lanka or Argentina, not America. It would have been bad for America's face to the world to have been dynastic, Bush-Clinton-Bush-Clinton for twenty four years.
Barack Obama represents a watershed in American history. He represents a distinct change from America's past, from the massacre of the Indians to the 3/5ths compromise America has not flung its doors this wide open ever. Our own people, the world, all are watching. America, yes we can.