Judgement Day: Barack Obama

30 October 2008

An increasingly familiar refrain in the political blogosphere is a phrase I hold to be self-evident: “McCain and Palin are full of crap”. I’d use stronger words, but my mother would be upset. The Republicans’ “campaign” has been nothing of the sort. Instead, McCain and the gang have spent their considerable war-chest on mudslinging. Everyone’s favourite lunatic, Ann Coulter, had lots of fun calling Senator Obama ‘President Hussein’, saying that his biggest achievement was “being born ‘half-black”.

Flippancy aside, there have been reasonable criticisms. On paper, for instance, Obama has little executive experience. My argument, though, is that if his campaign is anything to go by, the man will make a very able leader of the free world.

It’s terrifying that John McCain should be able to arrogantly declare, during a televised debate, that he would need no “on the job training”. Surely this is terrifying not in the sense that should be able to declare it, but rather that he believes it, and believes in its political force, enough to wish to declare it? To my knowledge, they don’t run vacation schemes in the oval office, nor is there a BTEC in Being Presidential. No amount of dubious “experience” can prepare someone for being the most important man in the world, making decisions that affect the entire human race. What a naive thing to say.

Obama is more sensible. Better than that, he’s savvy and he gets things done: his campaign raised $150 million in September alone, more than doubling McCain’s $66 million. “The two groups that have given us the most contributions are retirees and students, which shows how Barack’s call for change has spanned the generations,” said David Plouffe, Obama’s campaign manager. What this shows is not only the campaign’s ruthless efficiency and effectiveness, but also Obama’s power to bring people together. Obama doesn’t need to drone on about experience, because he’s out showing he can get jobs done.

The Republicans and the media have made too much of Obama’s lack of experience, but it is still a relevant question to be asking; can he handle the pressure and make the difficult decisions? Of course he can: Obama’s record thus far shows that. It must have taken huge courage and a strong will to challenge Hillary Clinton, believed by almost everyone to be a dead cert for the nomination, so early on his career. During the primary season, he proved millions of doubters wrong. On Tuesday, he will again.

More surprising, though, is Obama’s ability to effect changes in perception. In ‘Closing the God gap’, an essay in October’s issue Prospect magazine, James Crabtree shows how Obama has loosened the Republican’s grip on American Christianity. Imitating the Republicans in the 1970s, Obama’s team have shown a remarkable ability to bring the faithful into the flock with a combination of intensely tactical electioneering and effective self presentation.

Obama’s speeches are littered with references to scripture and his books speak candidly about his conversion: it seems to have worked. In the 2004 election, three quarters of self-proclaimed Christians voted Republican. Today, Catholics – America’s largest Christian denomination – are split almost evenly. It’s easy to be cynical about it, but we have to admit that, by God, it’s effective. Breaking down perceptions that too many were ready to concede as natural or instinctive shows Obama’s ability to bring people together and, paradoxically, transcend the politics of his GOP rivals.

So while Palin wastes her time denying the bleeding obvious about bridge appropriations, and shows her ignorance on foreign policy, and McCain calamitously declares that the economic foundations are sound on the day that two major banks come crashing down, Obama has shown that, despite the fact that he’s never held any executive jobs, when it comes to managing, leading and inspiring, he’s like Bob the Builder: can he fix it? He certainly can.

Economics is an exercise in predicting the future. Whether you agree with him or not, the Obama camp is the only side that has a declared policy on the economy. If and when the US send Obama to Pennsylvania Avenue, all of those people on Wall Street who’ve not slept for weeks will finally be able to accurately predict what will happen to them.

The argument for deregulation is based on the idea that the markets will sort themselves out. They can do this best when they know exactly what’s going to happen in the corridors of power. Obama will bring them this security.

The man is not the messiah, but in office, he will be just as effective as he has been during the campaign, if not more. When he has a goal he achieves it, and when he has a team to manage, he leads it. These are the things that make great Presidents.

Grahame Anderson is a second year law student..