Audaciously Hoping

(to the tune of Better Than Ezra’s Desperately Wanting)

Barack Obama’s victory in the Iowa caucuses – the first major nomination contest for would-be US presidents – inspired a frenzy of comment in the international media and blogosphere (Caribbean bloggers included).

It should also inspire Trinbagonians – to demand more of our own politicians, and of ourselves.

Senator Obama’s campaign – the slogan of which is “hope, action, change” – is breaking all the rules. In Iowa, he won more support from women than did his chief rival, Hillary Clinton. He galavanised record numbers of young people and previous non-voters to seriously engage with politics. And of course, he proved a black man could win the hearts, minds and votes of white, Midwestern Americans.

The Obama campaign is based on a triple platform of change, unity and (the audacity of) hope – and I love it.

I love it because what he’s doing in America allows me to believe that the same can be achieved in Trinidad and Tobago – “a new type of politics”:

“Something different. A politics focused not on what divides us but on our common values and our common ideals, [focused] not so much on ideology, but practicality.”

A new type of politics, with a new kind of political discourse:

“I am convinced that whenever we exaggerate or demonize, oversimplify or overstate our case, we lose. Whenever we dumb down the political debate, we lose. For it’s precisely the pursuit of ideological purity, the rigid orthodoxy and the sheer predictability of our current political debate, that keeps us from finding new ways to meet the challenges we face as a country.”

One which ceases to cynically exploit – and create – division:

We think of faith as a source of comfort and understanding but find our expression of faith sowing division; we believe ourselves to be a tolerant people even as racial, religious, and cultural tensions roil the landscape. And instead of resolving these tensions or mediating these conflicts, our politics fans them, exploits them, and drives us further apart.


Maybe there’s no escaping our great political divide, an endless clash of armies, and any attempts to alter the rules of engagement are futile. Or maybe the trivialization of politics has reached a point of no return, so that most people see it as just one more diversion, a sport, with politicians our paunch-bellied gladiators and those who bother to pay attention just fans on the sidelines: We paint our faces red or blue and cheer our side and boo their side, and if it takes a late hit or cheap shot to beat the other team, so be it, for winning is all that matters.

But I don’t think so.

This man believes. He believes in the potential for change, and he is the change he wishes to see.

I cannot say this of Messrs. Manning and Panday, nor of any of their minions, not when their campaigns are less about actual policies and more about who had the better Jamaican artiste at their last fete.

Nor can I say this about my country, since we are so caught up with our expensive cars and designer clothing (Miu Miu rather than Meiling) that we are happy to overlook our failing infrastructure and rising inflation .

But Senator Obama gives me hope. He gives me the courage to question the state of things and to challenge the status quo.

To look at what passes for politics in Trinidad and Tobago and say – I don’t think so.