Obama’s potent symbolism

ET Editorial

The fact of Democrat Barack Obama being the clear favourite in the US presidential race has been the source of a range of progressive expectations. But beyond the immense symbolic import of the moment, it is debatable whether an Obama win will radically alter US paradigms, more so abroad than at home.

That said, even the purely symbolic significance of the event is truly momentous. In a country where racial segregation is still within living memory, and deprivation for ethnic minorities still a reality, having the first black President would still send out a clear signal of change within the US.

Indeed, the Democratic Party, on the face of it, seemed to represent sweeping change in this election, what with Obama’s intense fight for the nomination being with the first-ever female candidate, Hilary Clinton.

There will certainly be a welcome move away from the George Bush legacy, with many Americans seeing it has having endangered their constitutional rights and battering the image and prestige of the US abroad.

Obama has been able to project a transformative aura, giving rise to hopes of a break with the neocon tradition of trampling over international institutions and increasing global strife.

However, even as an Obama presidency might rethink some foreign policy issues like Iraq and relations with Latin American nations, there is unlikely to be any structural readjustment in Washington’s policies. India can hardly get a President as keen as George Bush was on cementing strategic partnerships.

And there is hardly any variation between the Democrat and Republican positions on critical, and deeply divisive, issues like the larger West Asian policy. Indeed, Obama has had to singularly disavow any possibility of change here.

It is also indicative of the more disturbing aspects of the public consensus in the US that Obama had to repeatedly insist that he was, indeed, not a Muslim. Breaking away from the lobbyism that so deeply shapes US politics, as well as from the hold of the military-industrial complex, would need much more than Democratic symbolism.

Courtesy: The Economic Times

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