When a democratic society like that in North America, that maintains intact the vigor that has made it so admirable, wants change, such as a change in the political cycle, it makes it possible, and how do they do it? With a great national debate, with a detailed look at the candidates and their respective suitability for the job, and, in the end, by backing the candidate who knows, better than anyone, how to show that suitability, first to those of his own party, and then to the community of citizens at large.
The victory of Barack Obama, thus, a new proof of Hannah Arendt’s idea that politics have the capacity to produce new beginnings, the idea that politics permit human societies to begin anew. I imagine that this, above all, is what those supporters of the senator from Illinois desired during his long electoral campaign: begin anew, express new hopes. Hopes for peace, economic prosperity, social solidarity, liberty.
And it’s a certainty that many people throughout the world have been holding their collective breath hoping for an Obama victory, people from different religious systems, of different political persuasions, and of different races and nations. There is a human diversity and a political plurality which some have theorized could only lead to an inevitable crash and irreconcilable conflict. However, even in his own biography, Obama represents the integration of that diversity, an integration that is, without doubt, problematic and complex, but realizable and that, in any case, deserves to be sought after and not cast aside.
Perhaps due to his confidence that problems can be solved and that, in the end, one can win, Obama insists so much on denouncing the worst enemy of politics: cynicism. Cynicism has magnificent disguises; it dresses up as knowledge, experience, prudence or pragmatism. But, sooner or later, cynicism always shows its most characteristic condition: indifference to human pain, to inequality and to extreme poverty; and it’s an indifference that carries guilt, an alliance with defeat.
The truth is that the lights of anticipation and enlightened hope have been a better guide for human beings than those of cynicism and fatalism, when trying to find our way out of serious difficulties. For that reason, it’s difficult not to feel empathy for a man who, in 2002, at the beginning of his senatorial career, came out openly against the war in Iraq; with a man who thought that the attack on Iraq, besides visiting great danger on the Iraqi people, and besides causing much pain to the American people, would make many millions of Muslims follow the mistaken leaders of their respective countries.
He will not lower his guard before totalitarianism, nor before violence; but I am also convinced that he will not raise his fists in prejudice, anger or a desire for vengeance.
The only winner is one who knows how to recognize victory. And at this point in history, the victory that we desire is that of law over arbitrary power, prosperity over hunger, the protection of nature over the destruction of the environment, of liberty and hope over domination and resignation.
With the victory in November, the electors have given Obama a magnificent opportunity, I know by my own experience; but, above all, they have given this opportunity to themselves. The Democrat’s project puts forth a serious attempt at amplifying the rights and liberties of the citizens of the country. Crucial aspects of the plan, such as the making of health care more accessible, should be dealt with in a time of significant economic challenges. The entire social agenda of the president sounds good to the ears of a European Social Democratic leader. And something like a global progressive agenda is inconceivable without a political push from the United States.
But it would be short-sighted not to share with those of other political persuasions that change that was inaugurated this past fourth of November. We would be remiss if we disdained the positive reception that various conservative European leaders have given to Obama’s victory. If, in this sense, change is contagious, then for that very reason it is also healthy.
Now, let's understand that poverty is a disgrace, not penitence. People in such difficulty deserve the respect that is expressed through solidarity and with the help of public power; such help is not the logical and inevitable result of a free market acting as the distributor of justice. The fate of others is always our concern. Because these are the types of ideas which have taken root in the thoughts of the new North American president, and those which have given rise to the generous global distribution of common goods to which the United States has dedicated itself through its history, from the UN to the Internet. The world needs many such common goods.
Obama is going to take the reins of his country during an unprecedented financial and economic crisis. He’s already announced initiatives for public investments, also without precedent, in order to pursue his most worrisome goal: the restoration of jobs. We share both the means and the ends, and we share, as well, a perspective on economic growth that is inseparable from the fight against the consequences of climate change and from the strategic relevance in supporting renewable energy sources.
I am convinced that the United States is going to resolve this crisis sooner rather than later, and that doing it will contribute to the resolving of the global crisis. I am also convinced that the U. S. will, better than in the recent past, know how to defend the values in which it believes, as they are also ours, those of an international community that can only make progress following a path of intelligent prevention of conflicts, affirmation and extension of liberty and tolerance, and of cooperation in development.
Already in Berlin, last summer, the president-elect proclaimed his confidence in a united Europe. Now it’s up to us, the Europeans, to respond to this confidence so that we can create a renewed transatlantic relationship and make that one of the key elements in the global stability. That’s how we can convert this multipolar world into a legitimate multilateral order that will, be its very nature, be more efficient in reforming the financial system, moving ahead in integrating international commerce and, above all, preserving the peace.
Obama’s victory has brought new forces to the political world. While we realize the fragile nature of human hopes and desires, we can only do politics with hope. He, himself, represents the triumph of the dream. His victory is an important part of victory. And if politics has produced change, now it’s up to that same change to produce politics. It’s not easy; it never is. But it can be done.