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Watch Out, America!

Jonathan Freedland has an op-ed in today’s Guardian warning Americans against electing John McCain for president. Its title? “The world’s verdict will be harsh if the US rejects the man it yearns for.”

It is not clear who’s doing the yearning: the world? The U.S.? Or Jonathan Freedland? But clearly, the object “It” covets is Barack Obama. And don’t you dare, America, let them/him/whoever down. The world will be angry at you: “If Americans reject Obama, they will be sending the clearest possible message to the rest of us–and, make no mistake, we shall hear it.” And you will deserve what you get, the implication runs: Exercise your democratic right to choose a president, but if you choose wrong, you’ll pay for it. So much for American democracy! (I seem to remember, like, a war or something where America wrested its political independence away from England.)

Freedland’s article expresses many of the European commentariat’s canards about the elections. If Obama loses it is because of racism. America is full of hypocrisy and bigotry. This attitude is not surprising: it comes from a country still, basically, a prisoner of class culture, where your place in society is not earned but inherited and your access to power is an entitlement, a privilege that comes with your social status. For Freedland, Obama does not deserve the presidency if he convinces the people he is the better candidate. He is entitled to it (presumably because he has the blessing of people like Freedland)–regardless of whether he persuades voters on election day. Again, so much for democracy. The European Left no doubt feels the way Freedland feels. Fortunately, in the corridors of power, there is a more genuine appreciation of what democracy is–and the fact that whoever wins in November, it will be because he made the better argument to the electorate, not because he stole the election or because racism and sexism denied him his throne.



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