Why we loved Obama

By , 12 December 2008 6:07 pm

I really ought to leave American politics alone and I promise this will be my last post for sometime, but someone did ask why Europe was so fond of Barack Obama. Well without endorsing either him or McCain, let me offer some suggestions.

  1. Obama appealed to what most Europeans consider to be core values. As most Americans are aware (they certainly should be), Europe is somewhat to the left of the USA. Even at their most liberal your Democrats are often to the right of our socialist parties. Obama was presented over here as enlightened, tolerant and flexible. He certainly came over as literate, fluent and cosmopolitan. (The other week I failed to mention that one point about Sarah Palin which alarmed everybody here was the fact that she had only had a passport for two years.) He sounded sensible on issues such as the environment and global trade.
  2. Obama looked good and sounded good and I’m prepared to concede that in Europe image trumps any amount of character and track record. Certainly the President-Elect is not deficient in the area of image. He was portrayed as what we in Britain would call ‘a decent bloke’; a label which, if you can get it applied to you, covers over a multitude of sins. For us Evangelicals, his preparedness to talk of having a living faith in Christ allayed any concerns we might have had over his liberal social agenda. That was barely covered by our media anyway.
  3. If he wooed us by what he affirmed, Obama eased our fears by what he shunned. So we heard nothing of America triumphant, there was minimal flag-waving and references to God’s own country, there were no half-baked plans for imposing global democracy and no clumsy and Russian-irritating references to missile shields. (American readers should note that over here there is a widespread belief that missile shields might work for America but not Europe: we are too close to their most likely points of origin.) In fact, for most of the time Obama sounded like a European. (Actually the thing that concerns me and others is his resemblance to Blair, a man who had a total mastery over words but who was utterly defeated by reality.)
  4. In a world in crisis, Obama came over as the man most likely to fix the mess. He was portrayed here as a man of intellect, vision and discernment and someone who, if the 21st-century demanded them, was prepared to take new paths.
  5. Quite simply, Obama was depicted as the man who was not George W Bush. He was (quite definitely) someone who could string a sentence together and (quite probably) someone smart enough not to be lured into an Iraq style quagmire.

One minor point. Race is a very different issue here than in the States. We have no all-too recent struggle for equality and no ‘Civil Rights’ back story here. Oh yes there are racial and cultural issues here aplenty but they are quite dissimilar to those across the Atlantic. In other words, I do not think his racial background was of note in Europe.

Anyway, I titled this blog ‘Why we loved Obama’: the choice of the past tense was deliberate. You should also have noted how frequently I have used the terms ‘depicted as’, ‘came over as’ and so on. We must now see how the man bears up in the reality of office. It would be an unpleasant (and, dare I say, rather un-Christian) attitude to wish and pray for him anything other than success. In these dark days (and they may easily get darker still) no one needs a failure for American president.

Leave a Reply

Panorama Theme by Themocracy