Political campaigns â€“ at least in the United States â€“ take place in a bubble, sometimes far apart from reality. Itâ€™s not a completely fictitious world, this bubble. It looks and smells and feels a lot like the one we inhabit. Candidates speak the truth when they preach hope or advocate for experience over change or standing strong against terrorists. But hope and experience and strength are just words and promises; they are not actions or deeds that actually affect reality. Thatâ€™s because the real world is much more complicated and nuanced than any campaign speech can make it. For example, immigration is an issue tied up in many different factors; so is terrorism and health care and foreign policy.
Before we wade into the political waters, letâ€™s stay with reality for a second. The first issue at hand: America, what have you done for us? Thatâ€™s the question posed by John M at Africa News when he remarked on President George Bushâ€™s planned trip to five African countries.
The only thing I can say about Bush and his administrationâ€™s perception of Africa is that they have been totally indifferent to African issues.
Contrary to Clinton who visited the continent on many occasions and still goes there, Bush saw Africa as another market. While defining his diplomatic ties with Africa he said that they would be guided by the â€œNo aid but tradeâ€ principle.
Coming to Africa now brings nothing at all. Anyway, he will be away next January and his trips and eventual promises will belong to the past.
Bushâ€™s legacy on Africa (at least through the eyes of U.S. commentators) has been so-so to pretty good. However, when Bush is compared to Bill Clinton, Richard Mawanda Mufumbya in African Path, the current resident of the White House falls far short.
The Clinton era was synonymous with scandals but thatâ€™s not so big news at least in Africa where concubinism is more of a trait. We still agree to having a soft spot for the Clintons with all the goodwill they ushered in when for the first time the American president in history managed to have spent some time in our villages and seen shaking hands with the remotest of filthy poor citizens donning rags. Clinton managed to visit villages I confess I didnâ€™t know existed in this tiny east African country.
Mawanda Mufumbya remarks that with Bill Clintonâ€™s continued popularity in Africa, it's a little ironic that many Africans are not supporting Hillary Clinton. Rather, they are going for a Barack Obama Presidency not just for selfish reasons of a shared heritage, but with the hope they have in him to build a better relationship between the U.S. and the rest of the world.
Again from African Path:
Whether relationships have been in Africa or Asia name it, they have been mostly thorny and characterized with biasness propping up dictatorial regimes in Africa in exchange with mineral contracts to American countries. They have gone ahead sometimes with military hardware donations to Governments to suppress opposition and if this has been the Republican dominated foreign policy, its bound to re-open more wounds abroad if they are elected again.
Obama has been straight forward in policy at least even if his opponents blow it out of proportion as rhetorical but its better to have hope than wait for wrath of non caring Republican American presidents in the oval office. We need dialogue in the world today than flexing and if situations allow we need to talk straight with our detractors not to go round problems but take them head on. Obama is not only attractive a choice for being Black, learned, humble background but his works with inner city disadvantaged communities appeals to multitudes who can connect what he has managed in a few years to his message of hope which seems more likely to become reality than ever.
Trying to understand Obamamania certainly presents a dilemma. Many commentators inside and outside the United States cannot quite put a finger on his success. Some call it his iconographic image; others think itâ€™s his unique background and upbringing; others still claim that his message hits home at the right time. Over at the Afropolitan Network, the reason is much simpler: Obama has a well organized campaign that has taken the risk of tailoring his message to the fickle youth vote.
From Beverly Lwenya at the Afropolitan Network:
He is the smartest (he hasn't made too many gaffes), most organized (his campaign is almost flawless in grassroots organizing from ground up), most authentic (listen to his non-speeches) and most inspiring (carrying youth vote and new voters handily) candidate. If this is lost on you then you are not paying attention. I believe it was Tim Russet on MSNBC who noted that if November does end up being an Obama V McCain election, it will be the widest gap in age between candidates in American presidential history. If there was a case to be made that this election was a grand entrance for eldest of the Generation Xers then this is it. Meanwhile, us Millennials are Ferrari now at a yellow light â€œWaiting for the World to Changeâ€. I donâ€™t think weâ€™ll be sleeping in this time.
But Andrew LaGrange warns Obama supporters not to start buying fancy new dinner clothes for the Inauguration Party in January 2009. For Obama still has to defeat Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination. Even though the votes are starting to fall his way, Hillary Clinton can still count on some support of Superdelegates, controversial program to give elected officials and high ranking party members control of up to 40 per cent of the awarded delegates necessary to clinch the nomination.
From Andrew LaGrange:
So the Democrats soldier on, despite it looking increasingly like the centre of the party, and in the final analysis, the majority of the Democratic Party want Barack Obama to be presidential nominee. Why? Because Hilary and the Clinton Vote Getting machine still believe they will be able to swing enough super-delegates before the convention. Hillary has to now be hoping, in a George W. Bush-ian sense, that the Elders of her party (in his case the Elders of the Judiciary : The Supreme Court) will catch her final Hail Mary pass, and give her the nomination, despite it looking increasingly that Obama will be the popular candidate.
Have the Democratic Party learnt nothing from the posturing of 2000? You canâ€™t say you believe in the populist vote when it suits you, and then turn around and say you donâ€™t believe in it when it doesnâ€™t. Basically the problem for the Democrats will be that Hillary doesnâ€™t know when she is beatenâ€¦ and with Obama sweeping the Potomac primaries, itâ€™s increasingly looking like she has been.
Switching gears for a second, Sheyi Oriade, writing in Nigerians in America, wonders why it has taken so long for either a black man or a woman to stand for the highest office of the United States.
As much as I find current political developments in America exciting and encouraging, I also find it perplexing that it has taken this long to get to the point where either a black man or a white woman has a realistic shot at winning the presidential nomination of a major political party. For as far as I am aware, there have been black people in America since 1619, and I imagine white women for even longer. So I find it confounding and difficult to compute in my mind, particularly, against the background of the historical and philosophical underpinnings of the founding of the United States, why it has taken this long.
A novel way to compare and contrast the personality of each candidate is to take a tour through their respective websites. Thatâ€™s exactly what freelance website designer Mark Forrester did with Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.
Obamaâ€™s website is clean and clutter free. It makes use of a fresh blue color palette that doesnâ€™t scream â€œOh, say! can you see by the dawnâ€™s early lightâ€¦â€œ. The image of Obama peering into the distance behind his logo is somewhat cheesy though.
Mark found Obamaâ€™s site unhurried and not too busy. It had well defined menu items, and pretty easy navigation to all the social media spaces, which highlights the importance of Obamaâ€™s campaign in cyberspace.
Hillary Clintonâ€™s website has gone for a different approach. Her website to me screams â€œOh, say! can you see by the dawnâ€™s early lightâ€¦â€œ. The colours are stereotypically American and I immediately think the site looks like it belongs to a politician who is looking for votes. At the same time though it boasts confidence, the large headers and capital letters show Clinton is bold and not scared of saying Iâ€™ll fight you for the votes, whilst the main photo of her, with a big smile on her face, warms up her appearance.
Clintonâ€™s site requires a bit less scrolling than Obamaâ€™s and the social media links are far more evident. On the negative side, she does utilize a â€œ5 Things You Can Doâ€ box that feels a little bossy.
In concluding I think Obamaâ€™s website gets my vote, its appearance portrays Obama as somewhat of a visionary, itâ€™s more quietly intriguing and less in my face.
As Jillian York pointed out in her recent Voices Without Votes post regarding how the Moroccan blogosphere views the U.S. election, the Republican race also fails to hold much interest among Africans south of the Sahara. One reason for that is the race has been whittled down to a one-man show: John McCain. It will be McCain running in November for the Republicans, regardless of true â€œconservativeâ€ worries about him, writes Andrew LaGrange:
The Republicans have unified behind McCain, never mind what the conservatives say, â€œthey will vote for McCain on election day simply to ensure a Republican president, Ann Coulter be damned.â€
But from a conservative point of view, Bibilo Polit admits that when a good conservative candidate is found, the spin doctors in the media change the rules of the debate.
Being South African, I am glad I do not have to choose among the GOP front runners. Mitt Romney, like Guiliani (before he dropped out), is a democrat in republican clothes; John McCain is weak on illegal immigrants and Pastor Huckabee is big on BIG government. If the conservatives, especially those who believe that the constitution should be upheld, then they would have stood behind Ron Paul.
But, then, there are so many spin doctors in the American media, they would try to make out that Romney is a “real” conservative and Hillary Clinton is close to being the next mother Theresa.
Finally, from Ray Hartley, the Editor of the Times, the U.S. presidential race does show a newfound health of the American electoral system.
South Africans are fond of mocking US politics and the money it takes to campaign for office in that country.
But we would learn from the transparency of the nomination process, its involvement of ordinary people and the grilling candidates have had to endure.