(subtitled: small axes and big trees, little giants and big dreams)
I want Barack Obama to become the next President of the United States the way I wanted the Soca Warriors to advance to the second round of the last World Cup.
Which is to say, I live in hope but dare not believe, because to believe is to set oneself up for overwhelming disappointment – or the shock of a lifetime.
And there in lies the rub.
Consider T&T vs Sweden. When the final whistle blew, I wept.
It wasn’t about the score – 0-0 (aargh, Stern John.)
I’d just never seen such Warrior Spirit, never seen such cohesion in the team – never believed more than I did that day that we’d progress to the second round.
At that moment, in a bar in Central London surrounded by red, white and black and a single, shocked Swede, I was convinced we could do it.
Yes, we can
We didn’t, of course.
So it is with the Obama campaign – with its brilliant rhetoric and frustrating lack of policy detail, the positivity of its message and the war of words with the Clinton camp, the euphoria of Iowa and the disappointment of California.
The highs and lows are the same. And although I desperately want to believe in the magic, I am too much of a
realist pramgatist cynic to give in.
And, as Edward Luce argues so compellingly in this weekend’s FT, there is a need to manage expectations:
[To] argue, as Mr Obama does, that he offers something completely new may be to overstate his case a little.
Each of his three central messages is as old as the Republic – the promise of bipartisanship (“to put an end to the bickering and the partisan ways of Washington”), an ethical foreign policy (“to restore America’s moral place in the world”) and delivering change through unity (“to stand up and say we are one nation; we are one people; and our time for change has come”).
Each of these themes also share two traits. First they are drawn from the school of “American exceptionalism” – the belief that America offers a uniquely moral beacon to the world. And second, they are virtually impossible to accomplish.
There is nothing inherently accident-prone about American exceptionalism – for every Iraq war there is a Marshall Plan. And there is nothing wrong with promising things you cannot fully deliver. It is better to get some of the way there than never to try at all.
It’s a very interesting article, beautifully written, and I leave with you the closing words thereof:
It is safe to say that an Obama presidency would start off with much higher expectations. There would be magic in that. But also danger