Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Article Of The Week

Christopher Hitchens is wrong about some things, among them the Iraq War (steadfastly in favor) and Christianity (steadfastly opposed), but he appears to be among the few Obama supporters in the Fourth Estate not to have succumbed to premature euphoria over the election of the first black President.
Hitchens, who supported GW Bush over JF Kerry but supported Obama-Biden over McCain-Palin, apparently was criticized on Australian television "for expressing a few mild doubts about the new president-elect." He writes to

alert us to a related danger, which is the cousinhood of euphoria and hysteria. Those who think that they have just voted to legalize Utopia (and I hardly exaggerate when I say this; have you been reading the moist and trusting comments of our commentariat?) are preparing for a disillusionment that I very much doubt they will blame on themselves. The national Treasury is an echoing, empty vault; our Russian and Iranian enemies are acting even more wolfishly even as they sense a repudiation of Bush-Cheney; the lines of jobless and evicted are going to lengthen, and I don't think a diet of hope is going to cover it. Nor even a diet of audacity, though can you picture anything less audacious than the gray, safety-first figures who have so far been chosen by Obama to be on his team?

The "euphoria and hysteria" have infected even some of the more serious and sober of his colleagues, even as some appear self-conscious about their reaction. Writing in Slate, Anne Applebaum notes that after the Iowa primary she wrote that Barack Obama's race would be more of a help than a hindrance to his candidacy, a view which she now assumes confirmed. (It was a welcome deviation, however, from members of the pundit class who routinely implied white Americans were racist without having the courage to use the "r" word itself.) She concludes her recent (11/5) article by, well, concluding

In, the end, it comes down to this: All Americans are told, as children, that "anyone can grow up to be president of the United States." Because we have a black president we can now, however briefly, once again feel certain that it's true.

In his own article, written five days later but not in response, Hitchens says that he was informed by his excited Australian hosts that the first 14 American presidents could have owned Barack Obama, which he refutes by noting "our new president has no slave ancestry, and neither branch of his parentage could have been owned by anybody, or at least not by anybody American." I believe this in itself an effective refutation that this election has proven "anyone can grow up to be president of the United States," though Hitchens (and most of us) does find it a positive sign.

(Sarcasm alert.) The election of a black man with $700-$800 million dollars to spend, with approximately 9% of the American people believing the country is on the right track amidst an economic crisis, is uplifting. Still, I believe with Hitchens that our national challenges will not be surmounted immediately. And contrary to the assurance of another writer, the election of Barack Obama has not definitively proven Martin Luther King's conviction that the "arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice."

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