Nov. 5th, 2008

peterbirks: (Default)
Readers may have noted that I tend to focus more on finance than on politics in this blog. Where the dogmatism of politics gets in the way of finance, it tends to obscure rather than illuminate. If people comment about finance in a political way, that's their right, although I tend to get a bit shirty when they ascribe a political view to me that I don't hold, just because my analysis doesn't fit in with their political viewpoint.

However, my history is in politics. I graduated in Economics and politics and government. I taught Modern British Politics at university for three years while doing my PhD (in politics).

And so I spent much of the night taking short naps while I watched history in the making, and I'll admit that a lump came to my throat and there were a couple of tears in my eyes when Obama came out to make his speech in Chicago.

This, indeed, is a product of my age. I can remember Martin Luther King being shot. I can remember Lyndon Johnson, although it was only later that I learnt of his pioneering of the Civil Rights bill. As a child of the late 1960s, and as a university student of the 1970s, I can appreciate the staggering progress that the world has made.

I can remember when one of the biggest race arguments in the US was whether a black man could be a quarterback. I remember when there were only one or two black players in English football (all the adult blacks that I knew were foreign born -- my generation were the first 'British' blacks).

And since then, I have seen the Berlin Wall fall. I have seen Nelson Mandela take that long walk to freedom and short walk to the shops; I have seen the end of apartheid in South Africa. And now I have seen a black president of the US. As recently as 1985, if you would have asked me whether I would see any of those things in my lifetime, I would have probably said, 'no'.


So, for people of my generation, this is probably a rather more momentous event than it is for those in their 30s, who might be wondering what all of the fuss is about. And I suspect that the defining image (for, as we know, much of the world only understands reality when they see it in pictures) will be when we see a black man with a black wife and black kids walking into the White House. To say that it is not about race is to be glib and superficial. This is a country that went to war with itself over race.

I had half considered writing a piece claiming that Kiefer Sutherland and the TV series '24' could claim much of the credit for making Obama electable, since it portrayed a black president in the near future, without even bothring to comment that he was black. The TV series, as it were, made the previously unthinkable, perfectly thinkable. But that would be a wrong response. Other factors were at play here, and Obama has been lucky as well as good. It was the economy that lost it for McCain, as well as an atrocious choice of a vice-presidential candidate, and a poorly run campaign. Everything went right for Abama and he declined to take any of the opportunities sent his way to screw it up.

My own economic interests obviously align more with Republicans. And although I sympathize with many of the aims of regulatory government, I also feel that their attempts to implement such noble aims frequently do more harm than good. But my heart was with Obama -- just because it's always nice to be a witness to something that you know will be history.

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