One shouldn't be too hopeful; Obama is, after all, a politician and a pragmatic centrist (unless you're a FOXNews commentator, in which case he's the Antichrist and Fidel Castro rolled into one). His victory isn't going to bring free ice-cream and ponies for everyone, turn America into Sweden, or magic away all the problems that have been building up. And there are a lot of problems: the Bush administrations have wiped out America's reserves of money (turning Clinton's surpluses to a record-breaking deficit), public image and good will, and left an Augean stable overflowing with shit. The incoming President's labours will truly be Herculaean.
Having said that, there is reason to be optimistic, because, after eight years, America will have a president who's forward-looking, pragmatic and competent. Actually, even if he's merely competent and not too crooked, that will be a tremendous improvement over the Bush era. I don't expect profound transformations, though it looks like Obama will move things along in the right direction.
And then there's the fact that America elected a black president by a huge margin. The feared "Bradley effect" (voters telling pollsters they'd vote for Obama but not actually doing so due to racism) failed to materialise. This is about change, but more a confirmation of change that has happened. (Remember when, in the 1990s, Bill Clinton was hailed as "the first black President"? Doesn't that now seem like a cringeworthy relic of a more bigoted age, like lawn-negro statues and actors in blackface makeup? And so, the age of grunge and the WIRED Long Boom is now consigned to the dusty museum of the more-racist past.) The psychological and cultural effects of this (and, it must be said to give credit where it's due, of Bush's appointment of Condoleezza Rice and Colin Powell, though this takes it to a new level) on issues race in America could be profound. Today's young Afro-Americans can aspire to be President (traditionally the whitest of posts), which could be a death blow for the belief that certain forms of success are too "white" to countenance and constitute "selling out".
Now let's just hope that nobody manages to assassinate Obama; given some of the vitriol seen during the campaign, it's a worrying possibility.
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