Tuesday 20 January 2009

Let's hope Obama can bear weight of expectation

Politicians sometimes forget that most ordinary people feel politics is boring, and seems to have no relationship to their lives.
In the US, Barack Obama certainly has overcome those attitudes. He has created a connection, getting voters to turnout who haven't voted for years, or sometimes have never voted ever before. His amazing oration has helped create an emotional appeal around his campaign that has chimed with the population, so that he now seems to embody a set of hopes for change.
In the US, for one set of people he stands for changing the US into somewhere fairer where they get a better life than the one they have, while others are interested in him changing their country into one that is more loved by the rest of the world.
There's a whole lot of emotion aimed at the US this afternoon from the rest of the world too, where television sets are expected to be tuned into this essentially US domestic event in record-breaking numbers.
Even small children have been touched by this man's stature. I heard one 11-year-old British kid on the radio talking about Obama with great feeling. This is someone in another country who still felt this man had something to say to him.
The weight of our expectation is enormous, and this is not only about policy, but what he stands for.
We do, unfairly, expect politicians to live up to our dreams. So when politicians say they want further equality in society, we expect their lives to show that they believe in these things personally as well as politically. And when they say they will make society change, we expect instant action.
Another inspirational president - Nelson Mandela - found that the people that elected him expected their lives to change far more quickly and far more dramatically than he could achieve in post-apartheid South Africa. Obama may find that weight of expectation also brings time-sensitive expectation.
So far and particularly from afar, Obama has been able to be that perfect man, when he becomes president, of course, it will be so much harder to do so.
Let's hope that the cynicism doesn't set in too early and he can hold on to that wave of optimistic support from home and abroad as he tries to create a new presidency.

No comments: