After the longest and most expensive Presidential election campaign in America’s history, we know the answer. Although his margin of victory is less than the pollsters, and many Democrats, predicted, Barrack Hussein Obama will be the 44th President of the USA. There is no doubting his remarkable achievement. A young, untried, inexperienced politician from the South Side of Chicago has defeated first of all the daunting Clinton political machine, and then a somewhat reduced Republican Party, to take the White House. His campaign will provide the material for a thousand doctoral papers by political scientists, and will be pondered and studied by political parties and activists everywhere. There are lessons here for Conservatives, in how he motivated the grass roots, and raised huge sums in millions of small donations.
As the first African-American President, he represents the apotheosis, and perhaps the resolution, of centuries of racial conflict and division in the USA; the catharsis for the tribal guilt of American liberals. The vast weight of expectation which he carries on his slight and narrow shoulders would intimidate the best of us, and satisfying those expectations would surely prove beyond the capacity of the Archangel Gabriel, still less any mortal man.
It would be churlish to rain on his parade, yet my heart is filled with foreboding for our friends across the water. What do we know of this man? Almost nothing. He comes untried and untested. His history as a legislator is extraordinarily anonymous, except that he is clearly well to the left of his party. Even the circumstances of his birth are disputed: some believe he was born not in Hawaii but in Kenya, and was therefore not qualified to run for President.
Before I got into politics I spent a third of a century in business, and I remember a cautionary saying we used: “You hire an articulate manager, and six months later you find that all he can do is articulate”. Obama is a great orator: no question of that. But he managed to deliver stirring speeches that were remarkably light on policy (maybe another lesson for Conservatives). We know that his friends, mentors and associates included those who hate America, and even one who set out to bomb it — not an encouraging start.
His mantra is “Change”. But change is easy to offer, less easy to define, and tougher still to achieve. We know that he believes not in wealth creation, but in “spreading wealth around”, as he let slip to Joe the Plumber. He is a redistributive welfarist. He is a protectionist. For America’s social and economic problems, he is wedded to solutions that have failed over and over again, time after time. He adopts every piece of modish liberal nonsense, not least on the climate issue. He believes that government is the solution, not the problem. Against this background, I am astonished that some British Conservatives spoke out in support of his campaign.
In international affairs he seems to believe that a new face and a fund of goodwill are sufficient to solve the world’s most intractable problems. He will soon learn differently, but meantime his naiveté is a threat not only to America, but to the whole of the free world.
I have always seen America as a Shining City on a Hill, a beacon of liberty for the whole world. Today, that City on the Hill shines a little less brightly.
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