"Politics is the art of the possible"
- O. von Bismarck
Last night I stayed up until about 2.45 AM (GMT, EST+5) by which time the BBC - taking their lead on exit poll projections from ABC - had called Ohio for Obama. I could then go to sleep with the virtual certainty - not that there was much call for doubt before then, a point to which I'll return - that he had won the election. Sure enough, the first thing I heard in the morning on the RTE news was a mention of 'President-Elect Obama'; and from that point on there seemed to be more sunshine in the late autumnal - or as you so quaintly call it, 'fall' - vibrancy of the day.
I'm not an American, of any type, in case you haven't noticed: that is, except for the majority part of my CD and record collection; my bookshelf, not so much, other than the Kerouac/De Lillo/Auster/Palahniuk section; and also the creeping use of idiom by the influence of blogging. 'Hardcore for Nerds' is in its original essence - emo - an American term and invention. While my politics are naturally Irish and European, as well as global, my interest in culture is predominantly American in its source and in its direction of exploration. Yet culture, in either its social or artistic forms, can hardly be separated from politics; so in short, we're back to Obama again.
However, my interest in the Obama phenomenon - the Obama actuality - is not wholly, or even mostly, cultural. I am a student of politics by both scholarship and temperament, just as am one of history and historic events. The quote above I probably haven't used for about five years, the last time being a school essay on the diplomacy of great-power Europe. There are plenty of things that I wouldn't want to compare between Bismarck's Prussian imperialism and the actions of a 21st-century US politician, but no analogy is perfect. In fact, it's not even an analogy: it's a classic statement of realism, which can be deliberately twisted to fit the idealism - the hope - of today (and a riposte to those who see an Obama presidency as inevitably and harmfully not living up to expectations).
This past week I had been toying with various ideas for a pre-election post, something to express my ideological support for this candidacy, while not seeming to interfere in the sovereign democracy of America or generally play up my snooty European-ness. The obvious answer to the first problem is that the election of the so-called 'leader of the free world' is a global issue, and a huge part of the international support for Obama is due to his more reasoned stance on foreign policy issues, and the expectation - critical amongst Americans abroad - that he will rehabilitate the US's image around the world.
Outside that sphere, the differences between social democratic Europe and fiercely individualistic America seem to hinder communication over domestic issues of economy or society. In the eyes of the more critical, and perhaps discerning commentators, the Irish and European almost one-sided attitude towards the Obama/McCain conflict was an illusion based on these differing domestic spheres (in Ireland, for example, abortion is almost completely illegal and the vast majority of primary schools are run directly by the Catholic Church, but we still look at Sarah Palin as if she's a crazed dinosaur).
There was one rather interesting and major argument put forward for why the Irish shouldn't be so supportive of O'Bama - his tendency towards economic protectionism. Compared to John McCain's firm support for free trade, Barack Obama's stated intent to dissuade US companies from availing of tax advantages through setting up in (and therefore taking jobs to) other countries, directly threatens the huge section of the Irish economy that is based on attracting US IT and pharmaceutical corporations with our skilled labour force and low corporate tax rate (12.5%). I'm not too worried - either way - however, because a) I'm opposed to a low-tax economy in the first place, either as the basis for under-funded public services or as essentially an unfair or unearned comparative advantage in global trade (profiting chiefly the owners of the large corporations), while b) a significant part of Europe wants us to get rid of it anyway - pace Lisbon - and finally c), see the quote above. He can't do everything.
I (cont.): Arthur Koestler, The Cold War Kids and FiveThirtyEight.com
II : Hoover - 'Side Car Freddie/'Cable' 7"
(a new beginning for the Hoover family tree)