Some crisis links (11.20.2008)

The election of Barack Obama: How did this improbable event come about? M. Shahid Alam addresses the question and rightly argues:

The answer is sobering. We can thank the financial meltdown and, in some measure, the threat of an Armageddon — likely to follow Palin's succession to a geriatric McCain — for Obama's victory. There was no shifting of tectonic [racial] plates on this continent.

If anything, America's unquestioning identification of Obama as a 'black' candidate is deeply problematic. It demonstrates that the United States remains firmly rooted in ideas of race that go back to the era of slavery and Jim Crow Laws.

Indeed, first of all, Obama clearly was the best of the duopoly candidates. Moreover, he revealed his comparatively greater worth when he ran a strong and disciplined campaign to get the Democratic nomination and to win the Presidential election. Despite the quality of Obama's campaign, McCain and Palin, two dim bulbs burdened with much baggage, were making a go of it until America's "Black September" provided the electorate with the motive it needed to avoid making another ghastly and costly mistake. More significant still is the fact that Barack Obama's candidacy posed no threat at all to America's elite, despite the specious claims made by the McCain campaign and its fellow travelers. Obama, with his charisma, popular support and his intrinsic conservatism, may have been the best choice for the elite given the mess the Bush regime will leave for the next administration to manage.

Nonetheless and contrary to Alam's final judgment, it remains the case that a racially divided country, one with race-based slavery and genocide in its history, did elect an "other" instead of the candidate with the "politically correct" skin color. It also chose the well-educated and sophisticated man over his cartoonish, faux populist opponents. This, I believe, can and ought to be considered a victory for good sense, albeit a much smaller triumph than first appearances tend to suggest. I believe there is no harm in recognizing it as such.

Jobless claims rose to a 16-year high last month, according to the New York Times and Department of Labor reports (see this and this). And the recession is likely just beginning.

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