Much has been said and written about history having been made with Barack Obama becoming the first black man to win a presidential election. Though this is undoubtedly an historical moment and an event that will be seen with awe across the world, it shouldn’t come as a complete surprise. America as the cliche goes is the land of opportunity where hard work, endeavour and commitment to the American cause is what counts not race, gender and ethnicity. Despite many of us in this country and elsewhere sniggering at Americans when they use such language, there is a great deal of truth in many of these hackneyed phrases. In many European countries including our own the chances of a member from the ethnic minorities becoming Prime Minister or President is a distant dream. While we in this country are fighting the battle to have sufficient members from the minorities get elected so that Parliament is representative of the society we live in, the US takes democracy to a different and higher level leaving behind all its racial and ethnic battles of yesteryear.
The enthusiasm with which Americans voted for Obama was something that we haven’t witnessed in recent US elections and probably won’t witness again. Regardless of his policies, Obama inspired people of all backgrounds to engage in the democratic process, especially the African American communities which have often been apathetic towards politics and politicians. The simple message of ‘change’ connected with voters and the innate patriotism in every voter was used to get them to a polling station even it meant queuing several hours to vote. Contrast this with our embarrassing uncertainty of what it means to be British and the way the politically correct brigade have ensured any discussion and debate is on its terms of not offending each and every member of an ethnic or religious group that is residing in this country.
Once the results were declared Foreign leaders were clambering to be the first to offer congratulations and declaring Obama and America to be their friend. Obama has more goodwill than any other recent President elect as a result of which he has a wonderful opportunity to shape foreign affairs on the global stage and to portray the US as an impartial power broker and honest world policeman which he must take advantage of. He also has his hands full in treading the path to economic recovery and dealing with the perennial concerns of healthcare and law and order. If he implements the right policies that work to alleviate these concerns, he will be a two term President and go down in history as one of the most successful politicians in the West and the first black man to successfully lead America. If he does this, race in the US should never be an issue again. All the balls are in his court – all he needs to do is play the right shots.