America at a crossroads
Obama is the man to lead America forward, writes Muqtedar Khan*
As US presidential elections approach, Americans find themselves at a critical crossroads. This election will not only determine who occupies the White House for the next four years, but will also determine the philosophical vision that will shape the long-term future of America.
The first thing that Americans must understand is that this election is not about John McCain -- he is decidedly the past. His ideas, his experience and his politics are irrelevant to America's tomorrow. The contest is no more between Obama and McCain; it is between Obama and Palin. This election is about the alternate futures embodied in Barack Obama and Sarah Palin who each personify a different vision.
The presidency of George W Bush has buried the underlying principles of Ronald Reagan's neo-conservativism: small government, tax cuts for the rich, elimination of government programmes for the middle and low income classes, zero investments in infrastructure, deregulation of markets and unnecessary, ideologically driven wars on borrowed money.
Look what these policies did to America, the sole superpower since 1989.
The country is on the verge of a meltdown. The military under- funded and over extended is "broken". The healthcare system is in a crisis as nearly 47 million have no medical insurance and their life savings are just one medical crisis away from being wiped out. Education is declining in quality at the school level and becoming unaffordable at the college level. Bridges are sagging and highways are clogged. And the market -- the panacea of everything -- is on welfare!
Who can rescue America from the deadly clutches of neo- conservatism? Sarah Palin has inspired and galvanised US conservatives even though she is a potpourri of contradictions. Palin is a Republican with a populist rhetoric. She is anti-abortion but supports gay unions. She is a feminist who wants to break the ultimate glass ceiling, but also seeks to reverse Roe versus Wade. She believes in witch doctors but also acknowledges the dangers of global warming.
Contradictions aside, Palin presents a truly incoherent future for America. She is poorly educated, inarticulate and apparently incapable of a conversation that demands awareness of facts. In the few weeks that she has been on the campaign trail, the only outstanding trait that she has demonstrated is rabble rousing.
The McCain-Palin campaign with its homage to Joe Sixpack and Joe the Plumber, its incessant criticism of the media for its obsession with facts and details, and the constant shielding of Palin from serious journalists, has made mediocrity a virtue. For Palin her biggest qualification to rule the most advanced nation in the world is her inescapable ordinariness.
As America looks for a new public philosophy to guide it out of its current crisis, Palin has only this to offer: nationalism without substance and rhetoric without ideas.
If given the chance to lead, will she take global centres like New York, Los Angeles, Washington DC and Chicago on a path that will make them all small towns with small town values, where no one asks an intelligent question or expects an intelligent response from their leaders?
In the age of globalisation and information revolution where knowledge-based markets dominate, America cannot afford to turn its back on intellect.
Fortunately there is another road it can take. Look at Obama. He is intelligent, he is thoughtful; he is well informed and exceptionally perceptive. He has had the best education that America can offer and has the temperament of a true leader. He promises an America that is exciting: knowledge-based, inclusive, multicultural, friendly, above all possessing a self-assurance that is comforting.
America is a great country that has sadly suffered a great calamity (eight years of neo-conservatism). It needs a leader who will unite Americans and resuscitate America with wisdom and devotion. Obama is that man.
You don't have to take my word or my reason, just listen to what one of the greatest Americans of our time, General Colin Powell, has to say about Obama: "He has both style and substance, he has met the standard of being a successful president, being an exceptional president."
* The writer is director of Islamic Studies at the University of Delaware and fellow of the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding.