It’s all over but the coronation. Barack Hussein Obama has achieved a historic win. As the New Yorker notes, we can now call him by his full name now that he has won, and anyway BHO sounds much better than BO.
On election night, I watched McCain give the best speech of his campaign – the only speech where he appeared gracious and honorable and statesmanlike. Too bad he waited until his concession speech to show this side of himself.
Then I watched Obama’s victory speech, which was very inspiring too except for the Oscar acceptance part when he started thanking everyone from David Axelrod to his wife and kids. Does he have a dog? I wondered. Will he thank it next? Isn’t the average American supposed to have 2.3 kids and a dog?? Barack has done well on the 2.3 kids, so I was not surprised when his next line was about getting a puppy.
Watching all the campaigns over the last 2 years taught me an unwritten, but important rule of American politics – when you speak, you must always have an adoring spouse standing behind you, smiling broadly, clapping at appropriate points and generally acting like an NFL cheerleader (highkicking is optional).
If, on the other hand, you are a candidate who doesn’t have a spouse standing behind you at every campaign rally, there must be something wrong with you.? If you are 30 and single and we don’t even hear about your girlfriends, then you must be gay. That is exactly what the opposition insinuated about Ashwin Madia.? Not surprisingly, Madia lost the election.
If this election was a vote for change, it was obviously not a vote for too much change. It was sad to see Proposition 8 (which seeks to ban gay marriage) pass in California. ? Some minorities will still need to go a long way to become equal.
But electing a black President was a huge change for this country. It was historic because it would have been unthinkable even a few years ago. As Eugene Robinson of the Washington Post said with tear-filled eyes, even a few years ago, he would never have believed such a thing would happen. Not that he would have calculated the odds of a black president and concluded they were low – the very idea that a black man could become President was unthinkable.
I watched black men and women of all ages, columnists and college students, get teary eyed after the election. Middle-aged and elderly blacks, especially were more emotional than young people, no doubt because they had experienced much stronger racism. You could not watch the scenes without getting a little emotional yourself, and realize how historic this election was, not only for blacks, but for America in general, because the country had taken a significant step towards becoming a post-racial place.
So yes, it was a historic change. But when Obama said in his speech “America is a place where all things are possible”, I wondered if he wasn’t going too far. Obviously it depends on how you define “all things”. It’s true if you mean that more than a hundred years after black men got the right to vote, a black man had become President. Yes, that was now proven possible.
Gay marriage still obviously does not come under “all things”. But minorities aside, what about the majority – women? Was it possible in America for a woman to become President? More to the point, was it now finally possible for a woman to become President, now that an African-American had become one?
After all, African-American men got the vote before women did.? Women in the US were granted the right to vote only in 1920. Black men, on the other hand, had the right to vote with the passing of the 15th Amendment in 1870. (It’s a different matter that this legal right to vote wasn’t much help in the face of continuing racism). But my point is – whoever made those laws were convinced that women were on the lowest rung of the ladder of legal and political rights.
Attitudes towards women have still not changed, even if we are now in the 21st century. Just look at the reaction to both the women on the ticket – if Hillary Clinton was vilified as a shrew, if we saw people holding placards saying “Iron my shirt” or selling nutcracker dolls, we saw Sarah Palin being cast as an airhead.? I am not defending Palin’s competence or suitability for the ticket.? But VPILF?? Is that the way one thinks about a Vice Presidential candidate?
Ironically, being seen as ignorant and incompetent may have helped Sarah Palin to some extent, as she was less threatening to many men than Hillary Clinton was. After all, when there are men who think women are not capable of taking decisions about their own body and reproductive choices, how do you expect those same men to believe that women are capable of running a country?
We will certainly not see a woman President in the US in the next eight years. Will we see one in the next eighteen?
Perhaps we will. But when it happens, don’t expect me to get teary-eyed. All I would feel is satisfaction on a much-needed change. My own country, India, has had a woman Prime Minister and now a woman President. Women have been leaders of major political parties. They have been, and are, powerful women, not stooges.
I guess Barack Obama should add a disclaimer to that speech – “America is a place where all things are possible, but eventually, in the fullness of time, and maybe when humans live on Mars.”
I would like to believe too, that America is a nation where anything is possible. but for now, I will face the reality – that statement doesn’t apply to everyone. Maybe that’s why it’s called the American Dream – that’s exactly what it is.