11.02.08 9:58 AM ET
Europe, Be Careful What You Ask For
The rest of the world overwhelmingly supports Obama, and if he fails to win there will be much wailing and gnashing of teeth at the “stupid, racist Americans.”
But other nations should be careful what they wish for because an Obama victory will make the anti-Americanism now so common in the chancelleries and drawing rooms of European and developing countries much more difficult. With Barack Hussein Obama, son of a Kenyan goat-herder, in the Oval Office, anti-Americanism will be harder to sustain, especially in Europe, which has no Obamas of its own.
With the son of a Kenyan goat-herder sitting in the Oval Office, default anti-Americanism will be harder to sustain, especially in Europe, which has no Obamas of its own.
Indeed, Europe hasn’t got any Colin Powells or Condoleezza Rices either. France has 6 million Muslims, plus another 2 million immigrants of black African origin. Yet not a single black face is elected by metropolitan France to the French assembly. Germany, with its huge Turkish population, can manage only a few brown faces in its parliament. Italy is nowhere in representing racial minorities, while Britain has more black and brown faces in Parliament, but they are still underrepresented.
An Obama victory would also reinforce the story of the “American Dream.” What other country would facilitate what Obama calls his “improbable journey”? It should chasten other countries, which can only dream of such mobility.
Obama’s In-Tray from Hell
It’s just as well that an Obama presidency should enjoy international good will because he will be greeted by an in-tray from hell. Unfinished wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, a key ally in the war on terror (Pakistan) on the brink of becoming a failed state, and the unresolved problem of Iran’s nuclear ambitions must all be dealt with against the background of the worst financial meltdown since the Great Crash.
He will have some advantages. Germany’s Angela Merkel, France’s Nicolas Sarkozy, and Britain’s Gordon Brown are pro-American and will work closely with him. In Iraq, the new president should be able to declare some sort of victory and begin disengagement, with the support of everybody from Baghdad to Berlin.
In Afghanistan there is a NATO consensus that withdrawal is not an option and that more men and materiel will need to be deployed. Obama has called for 10,000 more troops in Afghanistan, but that alone won’t make much of a difference.
The one step that might is hard, relentless hits on the Taliban’s bases in Pakistan’s North-West Frontier with Afghanistan, but that risks further destabilizing Pakistan.
Obama can expect difficulties from an emboldened Iran, which may be keen to test the new president to see on how many fronts at once he’s prepared to fight. Iran could become for Obama what Cuba and the 1962 Soviet missile crisis was for JFK.
As if that is not enough, there is China, which could turn more nationalist in response to the global downturn.
Obama and the Democrats
Democrats should rule the roost in Washington with a bigger majority in the House and perhaps a 60-seat filibuster-beating tally in the Senate after Tuesday. But monopoly won’t necessarily make for harmony between Capitol Hill and the White House.
Congressional Democrats will be more leftish than at any time since the 1960s, and they will pressure Obama to move in their direction. His instinct may be to do so—he has been a liberal senator—but he will also have an eye on reelection in 2012, and that will keep dragging him back to the center.
Obama will not want to go against the grain of what is still a pretty conservative majority in the country. I expect him to govern largely from the center, so tensions between the White House and Capitol Hill could emerge early in his presidency. A sideshow will be deteriorating relations with America’s black political establishment, which doesn’t like Obama much and which he is certain to disappoint.
Whither the Republicans?
The remaining Republicans will be hoping a Democratic Congress drags an Obama presidency far left. Some are already suggesting a Democratic monopoly may trigger a Gingrich-style comeback.
Maybe. But Republican problems could be more deep-seated. That the worst financial crisis for 80 years happened on the Republican watch could haunt the Republicans for years.
And because of the Iraq war they’ve also lost their reputation for national security competence. It could be a fatal double-whammy.
The coalition of fiscal conservatives, social conservatives, and neocon hawks is coming apart at the seams and it is not easy to see how it could be sown together again.
The GOP primary in 2012 could be a bloodbath because there is increasingly little to unite social, economic, and national security conservatives.
The New America
If Obama takes Virginia and North Carolina, a new New South will have emerged. That could prove to be a major boon to the Democrats.
So, too, could the emergence of a new New West. States like Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, and Nevada are now the fastest growing in the union. In the process they are ceasing to be safe Republican strongholds. It is possible the Republicans will win only Arizona on Tuesday, and that only because he is its favorite son.
The American Example
Finally, on an optimistic note, America has faith in its ability to renew itself. The Bush presidency, widely regarded as disastrous, hasn’t resulted in violence on the streets or disillusionment but an election that will break voting records, see a record number of people donating to a candidate, and producing one ticket led by a black American, the other containing a woman. Other countries, please note.
Andrew Neil is a publisher, broadcaster, and company chairman working out of London, New York, Dubai, and the south of France. He is currently chairman and editor-in-chief of Press Holdings Media Group, publishers of The Spectator, Spectator Business, and Apollo.