Wednesday, November 5, 2008

What if Obama is a flop?

Despite having not written for months, I didn't see how I could possibly let an event like this go by without comment. Far more significant than the Canadian election (even to us Canadians), last night's election says a lot about where the U.S.A. is at.

Of course, this is a very significant result. Despite a difference of only 0.1% of the popular vote, Americans actually did vote in favour of a minority for president. Unlike in Canada, where we picked the candidate that the rest of the world would look down on us for choosing, the U.S.A. picked the candidate that every other country wanted.

In a time like this, when everyone is happy and reflecting on the significance of the moment, I can't help but think of the worst-case outcome of this. What if 4 years from now the U.S.A. is still a disaster? Imagine that Obama floats through his presidency, without delivering on any of his promises, the country falls deeper into recession, the divide widens, etc. It certainly could happen. Specifically I'm thinking of a 2012 America where:

- Most citizens don't have free access to health care.

- They are still at war with (at least) three countries and losing many lives in the process.

- The sagging American economy has dragged down the entire world, such that new and emerging economies sink back to their old levels bringing many countries back to 3rd world status.

- More than 50% of Americans long for the days when a decisive Republican ran the country.

This could happen for a variety of reasons. Since every writer in the world is commenting on this election, the coming 100 days, the coming 4 years, etc. I won't comment on it here. Needless to say, despite every good intention and the rising hope of an entire nation (and arguably the world), it's entirely possible that nothing substantial gets accomplished and things operate pretty much as normal. I hope that's not the case, but it could be.

Despite the possible doom-and-gloom scenarios, this was, without a doubt, the right thing to do. This is the single biggest gift the U.S.A. has given itself and the rest of the world in my lifetime and regardless of what the next 4 years are like, I doubt anyone, from any country will be able to shake their heads and say "I told you so".

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