Sunday, November 02, 2008

The only thing to fear is failure

Despite nearly every poll showing that Barack Obama is going be elected the 44th president of the United States in just a few days' time, no one I know is taking anything for granted yet. Even here in the Democrat stronghold of San Francisco, where I've only seen only one lonely McCain-Palin bumper sticker in months of looking, my liberal friends are more nervous than confident. After two disputed election losses, the blue half of the country isn't daring to believe that the dark days are over just yet. Instead, the atmosphere is a curious mixture of fear and hope.

And it's easy to understand why people here are scared when you read articles like this one. It quotes a Republican couple from Florida who think Obama may be a Muslim because: "He says he’s not, but we have no way of knowing." They follow this bizarre example of circular logic by suggesting that Obama's middle name was given in tribute to Saddam Hussein (it would be a surprise if this were true, considering Obama was born in 1961, a full 18 years before his middle-namesake come to power in Iraq). These people, and many more just like them, will be bringing the full force of their intellects to bear in voting booths around the country this coming Tuesday.

But the one thing that everyone seems to be agreed on is that, no matter what the end result, this election will come to be seen as a historic moment for this country, for good or ill. I'm not so sure. I feel as if things won't be quite as bad as some fear should Obama lose, and perhaps more importantly considering the likely result neither will things be as wonderful should he win. After all, I remember the euphoria surrounding Tony Blair's election landslide in 1997, and look what happened after that.

And this is what scares me. If, as he should, Obama wins, and the Democrats maintain control of both houses (with a far more effective majority in the Senate), then expectations are going to be sky-high. But the reality remains that we are in the early stages of a global economic crisis that is going to get much worse before it gets better, which means rising unemployment and falling incomes for some time to come. And the US remains embroiled in two messy wars, neither with any real end in sight. No matter what Obama's stated intentions, extricating America's forces from Iraq isn't going to be easy, nor is it likely to be pretty. And even with the increased military resources at his disposal that would follow any successful pullout from Iraq, bringing meaningful peace or stability to Afghanistan will be as difficult as ever.

In these circumstances, it seems right that people should feel cautious right now. I just hope we all remember to keep our expectations in check after Tuesday, too.

No comments: