We’ve been through this a year ago in Australia, when we found out that however ‘young’ and new politics a politician presents himself (in this case it’s just ‘himself’ and not ‘her/himself’, the political scene being one of the surest indications that women are still second-class citizens)… in the end he turned out to be just another politician. But, damn, I believe in Barack Obama, I truly believe in him, and I don’t believe in a whole lot any more so that statement is not as trite as it could be. I think a lot of people do, a lot of people who otherwise don’t give a shit, because how did he get so much money if not?
This is jumping the gun a tad, as opposed to jumping the shark, but I’ll talk about him as if he’s already in. I was in Illinois in 2004, where a woman named Anne and I had gone through a will-they, won’t-they thing the year before. She was telling me about Barack Obama, this no-name everywhere except in Illinois, who had given a speech at the Democratic Convention in mid-2004 and reduced people to a few tears. Anne told me, before we ended up hating each other – a somewhat common trait among girls who at some point had previously had a thing for me – that he “gave a speech about life, about growing up, about living in this country”. Beyond that she could not express in words her sense of wistful longing for something better from politics, this quietly emotional amazement that this new man had promised to deliver it to her, but I sensed it in her.
I was in a town slightly south of but still connected to Chicago when he won the vote to get into the Senate that year and his black Republican opponent Alan Keyes said that “Jesus Christ would not vote for Barack Obama,” whatever that means. I wanted to see his face, this mysterious person who had convinced Anne of his intentions, and I finally did see what he looked like, but he didn’t impugn Keyes for his foolishness – he didn’t need to, he had already won – and in the end he has probably proven that he didn’t even need to be negative towards McCain and that clueless attack-dog he has lined up for V.P. whose name I can’t even mention. And he wasn’t, even though negativity is the only thing until now that has ever worked in American politics, and even though John McCain and Hilary Clinton revealed that despite their fabled histories they would say anything and do anything to win, the end ultimately justified the means for them as it did for everyone else.
I then went up to North Dakota to visit my Mum’s family, where my aunt and uncle, a doctor, were utterly convinced of George W.’s suitability for the upcoming 2004 election. And yet she said: hypothetically, if that new black politician, Obama, were ever available to be president she would vote for him, because she believed in his sincerity, in what he had to say, to offer. He was nothing in those days and such a thing was never going to happen in white-bread America, but pipedreams can be dreamt.
The next year I was in Bolivia, where the mysterious name Evo Morales popped up in the leadup to Bolivia’s election in December 2005. Yes yes, I can’t not talk about Bolivia in anything I write, I’m not obsessed but that country is always there in my mind, probably the love of my life. Evo Morales was an indigenous Bolivian who was seeking to become Bolivia’s first indigenous president ever (foundation 1825), despite the fact that Bolivia’s population is more than 60% indigenous. Like with Barack Obama I was curious to see his face, this name that was on all the locals’ lips. When I did I stared at him in fascination, another enigma to me.
And three years later he is the first indigenous Bolivian president while Barack Obama will probably be the first black American prez, these one-time niche figures who rose up, created history and became the first of their races to do what they did. Some of Morales’ missteps proved that you need a brain to govern a country, you can’t just bring the entire country in on your own personal grudges, otherwise you end up invading Iraq or dividing your country into two disparate cultural halves (Bolivia; although you could say the same about the U.S. too). Barack Obama, however, has not been allowed to be emotional. If he had done any emotional ‘McCains’ he would have been called an uppity nigger and it would have been all over for him. But he used his brain and for once that was enough to get ahead.