Affiliated with the University of Nicosia
The 2008 U.S. Election: Past and Prologue
By Monroe Newman
Monroe Newman is a professor Emeritus of Economics, Pennsylvania State University
Go back 50 years.
If someone suggested that the candidates of
a major American party for the highest offices in the land would be a
bi-racial African-American and a Roman Catholic, the personís sanity
would have been questioned.
Forecast that they would win and the
questions would have been replaced by a certainty.
Yet that is what has happened, an event that gives insight
into the evolving U.S. and foresight into implications for the future.
It might be said that too much should not be read
into the election results.
A shift in national leadership might have
been preordained by a disastrous presidency, unpopular and seemingly
endless wars, widening income disparities, financial catastrophe,
economic weakness, international disrepute and gross disconnects between
principles and actions.
Clearly, all this undoubtedly advantaged Barack
But do they explain such signal successes as
receiving $150 million in voluntary contributions in a single month?
(During the entire multi-month election period, no one was allowed to
give more than a total of $2,300.)
Or receiving 3 million separate donations
from Internet solicitations?
Or 100,000 people peaceably gathering and
dispersing to hear a single campaign speech?
Or not only receiving a majority of all
votes but also getting a higher percentage of
the votes of whites than either of the two
preceding Democratic candidates?
I think not, particularly in view of the
campaign against him.
The opposition campaign tried to build on some of
the worst sentiments in American society.
It tried to appeal to racism, xenophobia,
anti-intellectualism, religious bias, geographic and urban-rural
It tried to equate policy disagreements with lack
It besmirched the morality of those who
differ on social issues.
And it failed.
Implication: The old fears and ways no longer
Dogmatic domestic and international ideological
imperialism was defeated.
Will the new administration and the country
always live up to all their ambitions?
Imperfection is a human trait.
But the election gives notice that aims,
purposes, approaches and techniques are all likely to be markedly
For the rest of the world, there are two important
First, just as the U.S. has re-cast itself,
others need to re-cast their perceptions of the country and its view of
its role in the world.
The old assumptions and presumptions should,
at least, be examined.
For some of them, modification or revision
may well be necessary.
Others need to be ready to change because
the U.S. has changed.
Secondly, if the outcome in the U.S. is a harbinger
of changing attitudes elsewhere, appeals to nasty attitudes towards
others are losing their persuasiveness.
Emphasizing differences of race, religion,
nationality, gender, way of life may no longer be building blocks to
social and political power.
Inclusiveness rather than exclusiveness may
be the effective route.
In 50 years the U.S. has transformed its fundamental attitudes and behaviors toward its fellow citizens. Something worth emulating?
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