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Mainstream, Vol XLVI, No 25

Obama’s Tryst with History

Sunday 8 June 2008

COMMENTARY

Barack Obama’s victory over Hillary Rodham Clinton to clinch the Democratic Party’s nomination for the US presidential contest in November has been a truly historic development. By this win and securing the backing of 2118 delegates needed for the purpose, Obama has set a new milestone in the annals of the world’s most powerful democracy.

The campaign for the presidential nomination has revealed the remarkable features of American democracy even as one is acutely conscious of its manifold limitations as well as weaknesses. The very fact that race and gender, vital issues in the US at this juncture, occupied centre-stage in the 16-month-long campaign is of exceptional importance in the present scenario. Barack Obama’s rousing call for change and his special appeal to the million of first-time voters helped him emerge as a symbol of transformation and youth so essential in a country that has had to suffer long years of George W. Bush’s bankrupt concepts and policies both at home and abroad. Obama’s pronouncements on several issues, both in the domestic sphere and in the field of foreign policy, appeared to be refreshingly new (although one wonders how far he would be able to retain those ideas especially if he has compromise once he makes Hillary Clinton his running mate).

To be fair, Hillary too ran a concerted and tenacious campaign and her success in winning two-thirds of the Latin voters in the Puerto Rican primary, for instance, was undoubtedly of extraordinary significance. Even when she appeared to stand tall and declined to concede defeat, her statement that her differences with Obama were far less than those with John McCain, the Republican nominee for the US head of state, brought out her maturity and eagerness to unify a deeply divided party in the wake of the bitter, long-drawn-out race for the presidential nomination. However, some of her hawkish utterances betrayed her jaundiced outlook that also plagued her husband’s tenure in the White House.

Obama’s nomination offers a new ray of hope for giving a new dimension to US democracy—a hope anchored on his own simple pledge to transcend class, race and partisanship that has till now moved millions of Americans and drawn them towards him.

June 5 Observer

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