Today is the day that the United States voters - or it appears the majority of 65 percent of eligible voters - will vote the first black American as President of the crumbling American 'Empire'.

Here in New Zealand the media are again putting spectacle before substance. Marcus Lush, for example, on Radio Live this morning could barely contain himself, describing the forthcoming Obama presidency as 'historic', 'history in the making', and the 'most significant thing we will see happen in our lifetime'.

Over on Newstalk ZB the newsrader was talking about 'Americans making history'.

On both breakfast television shows there has been a similar response with various superlatives thrown around with reckless abandon.

On 'Morning Report' there's been more a measured response but, more often than not, the focus has been largely on Barack Obama being black. A vote for Obama will be a significant strike against racism is the underlying theme.

Indeed it is significant that millions of white voters are willing to put their futures in the hands of a black president, but will Barack Obama be any different from a white president?

Obama's campaign strategy owes a lot to the of Bill Clinton - and Obama himself has acknowledged this.

He told Rolling Stone magazine last month:

“Oh, I've already learned a lot from him. Bill Clinton, I think, understood earlier than most Democrats the need to correct for some of the excesses of the late Sixties and early Seventies, both in terms of our fiscal policies and our cultural posture toward Middle America… Bill Clinton did a lot to make Democrats seem like they were in touch with the ordinary aspirations of a great number of Americans. That, I think, stopped the haemorrhaging of independent voters and Reagan Democrats into the Republican Party… So I’m still in debt to Bill Clinton for what he accomplished” (Rolling Stone,Oct. 30, 2008).

Obama followed the Clinton strategy in one crucial respect in that he has articulated the aspirations of black Americans but, at the same time, has been able to 'compartmentalise' that aspiration - in order to not risk white support.

Indeed critics of Obama have said that Obama will only promote black interests that do upset the white middle class constituency. It is no coincidence that Obama does not talk of the black working class but of 'middle class voters' and 'middle income families'.

Although the McCain camp have tried to paint Obama as some 'risky' liberal, Obama's political career shows that his sympathies lie with the 'centre right' of the Democratic Party. He's no Dr King. He's not even a Jesse Jackson.

Indeed how does Barack see black Americans advancing? There is no suggestion of significant economic changes rather Obama talks the familiar individual virtues of 'initiative'. 'hard work', 'education' and 'responsibility'. It's all very well appealing to these virtues but what if the playing field is tilted against you? Obama does not address this.

Some problems require political solutions - individualising such problems is simply inadequate.

Ryan Lizza, in a recent excellent New Yorker article, summed up Obama this way:

“Perhaps the greatest misconception about Barack Obama is that he is some sort of anti-establishment revolutionary. Rather, every stage of his political career has been marked by an eagerness to accommodate himself to existing institutions rather than tear them down or replace them”

The election of Barack Obama to the White House will be largely symbolic - he will, in the end, defend the interests of American capitalism. It's no surprise that the Dow Jones has risen with the prospect of Obama as Commander-in-Chief.


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