06 June 2008

Watching History

There’s very little that I can add to the commentary surrounding the dramatically historic events of this past week but at the same time I feel compelled to say something. First, I’d like to share some of what I’ve read that I found particularly insightful or humorous and, second, I’ll add a bit of analysis of the French perspective on the happenings; perhaps one of the few aspects to which I can make a worthwhile contribution.

First, a post from hilzoy at Obsidian Wings commenting on the transformative effect that this nomination holds for a large swath of Americans. (Pointer coming from Ta-Nehisi Coates)

On a much lighter note, I second Andrew Sullivan seconding the Italian.

Finally, the little bit that I can add. I attended a panel discussion at Esther's alma mater, Sciences Po, titled The Obama Effect in France. The panelists were mainly professors of the school including a former European Union deputy (like a congressional representative), a couple of specialists in American history, as well as a real, live super-delegate (Constance Borde, the Vice President of the Democratic Party in France). What was most striking during the discussion was the level of desire among the French to respect the United States once again and how far an Obama presidency would go for achieving that goal. It's not that there is some sort of dislike of the United States that is fundamental to French identity, it's just a rather complicated relationship.

The panelists were also quite astute in noticing the essential differences and the inherent value contained therein between the politics of Bush and those of Obama. Wherein Bush there was a politics of fear cultivated, they rightly noted the politics of hope and change inherent to Obama's message. One went so far as to describe Obama as the answer to the international search for an icon of change.

It was interesting to listen to, not only because it contrasted with the streak of pessimism that I've encountered when talking with many other French people about the prospect of Obama actually being elected. The standard line is, "I would love to see him as the president, but I just don't think it's likely." Often a remark about the power of the Republican Party or the ingrained racism of the county follows. A non-negligible reason for me wanting to see Obama elected would be the refutation of these ideas. One panelist remarked that he would like to see Obama elected because that would mean that the same thing could be possible in France (though they unanimously agreed that it would be quite a long way in the future).

Finally, one more post from Andrew Sullivan that suggests that there is nothing uniquely French to this response.

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