kolmapäev, november 05, 2008


I am unsure of how most Estonians view the results of the American presidential race. In some Estonian polls, the charismatic Democratic candidate Barack Obama was seen as a favorite, yet support for Republican John McCain was strong, especially compared with the rest of Europe.

John McCain certainly appeared to be the safe, trans-Atlantic candidate -- the one Estonians could pin their hopes on to bring the "straight talk express" to Moscow, should the need present itself.

At the same time, Obama's popularity made him a strong candidate too. It would be much harder for Western Europeans to reject the initiatives of a President Obama, who is so popular among their own residents, than it was for them to reject George W. Bush's doctrine of preemptive war and "cowboy capitalism." They probably will wind up rejecting Obama anyway, but the honeymoon has yet to even begin, so let's not predict its end just yet.

Also, Obama was the candidate who represented what still makes America attractive to the Brazilians and the Kenyans and the Japanese. That's why they still flock in droves to Bay Area start-ups and East Coast universities. And a strong mandate from the American people, plus a warm reception in many countries will make American power competitive again, not only in Europe, but in Africa and South America and Asia. We should not forget that our president-elect still speaks some Indonesian.

This election had strong ideological undertones, but, ultimately, I believe it was decided on the perception of competence. Most Americans are not ideologues. They just want the president to do his job. We forget that George W. Bush's poll numbers tanked in September 2005, right after Hurricane Katrina. It wasn't his ideology that hurt him, though the seizure of the Republican Party by its right flank didn't help. It was the perception that he was asleep at the wheel. That he was incompetent.

John McCain was dragged down by this legacy and so underperformed in most polls. But up until September, he still had a chance of winning the election on the residual strength of the Reagan Republican brand: lower taxes, strong national security, ownership society. Then he picked Sarah Palin, who came on strong but was not prepared for national politics and eventually embarrassed the Republican ticket.

McCain also reacted to the financial crisis in a very convoluted way, suspending, then unsuspending, his campaign to go to Washington, only to arrive too late to make an impact on the bailout deal. Suddenly, McCain looked dazed. It appeared that he did not know what he was doing. He supposedly picked his VP after meeting her only two times, and, it was rumored, to spite those in his party who told him to pick Mitt Romney. He seemed to have a predisposition for impulsive decision making.

And so Obama's lead strengthened, and McCain was unable to make up the difference to the end, even with the help of Morning Joe, Joe Sixpack, and Joe the Plumber. Obama, despite his slim resume, was seen as a better communicator and more competent by most people, and that is what, I think, made the difference in the end.

In terms of policy towards security issues in northeastern Europe, Estonians and others probably know that the president-elect believes that Finland should join NATO "as soon as possible." That is, American policy will not really change. They should also understand that Obama is a post-Cold War candidate. As Finnish Foreign Minister Alexander Stubb has said, Europe, whole and free, is the default in the minds of most working age Europeans and Americans. Russian revisionism and German sauna diplomacy looks pathetic compared to these stronger appeals to pan-European and global prosperity.

Furthermore, ideology and personal preferences aside, Obama/Biden seemed like the stronger ticket. They already had a transition team in place and had made advances to possible secretaries of treasury, defense, and state. So, they were ready to take over. The McCain/Palin ticket seemed to be imploding in recent weeks and had they somehow won, they would have still been stuck with a Democratic majority in Congress. Exhausted by eight years of rule with most of their major players sidelined (remember Bill Frist? Tom DeLay? Rick Santorum?), Republicans are in no position to lead the country at this moment. So Americans chose the more apparently confident and competent ticket.

Having a strong, empowered American leadership, with a hefty mandate (52 percent of the vote, 349 electoral votes and counting) is good for the United States and its allies. Despite two wars and economic recession, the country has, for the moment, been reenergized by this election and will soon be ready to reengage the world under a new administration.

35 kommentaari:

Rainer ütles ...

I'm very glad Obama was elected. I'm happy for the American people as well as for all the world. Even if he's not hostile enough towards Russia.

Manawald ütles ...

Is it really good to be hostile towards Russia? He should just solve problems as the come along...

Kristopher ütles ...

I would be hard-pressed to come up with something Estonians couldn't stand more in their politicians than incompetence.

McCain might not have acted differently in an international crisis from the way he acted in the financial crisis. His running mate probably doesn't know who the Russian president and prime minister are, and I don't mean which is which.

If you look at the superficial evidence, I see some hawkishness from Obama. He even mentioned Russia in his 30-minute ad about American stories (in which he mentioned Iraq twice). I have no doubt he would be able to give a rousing Reaganesque "tear down the wall" type speech.

(I'm a dual citizen, or "stateful person" as I call it, who voted in the last Estonian elections but not in these US elections).

Rainer ütles ...

I was referring to some Estonian commentators, according to whom McCain would have been a better choice from our point of view since he's more "outspoken" (=hostile) towards Russia. We are obsessed with Russia after all.

Doris ütles ...

"Diplomacy is saying "nice doggy" while looking for a suitable enough stick"

In that sense I perceive Obama to be very diplomatic indeed. In pretty much anything, really. And he also seems capable of actually finding the stick ;)

mõttetu mees ütles ...

This was the first US presidential election I followed closely. All the major speeches, debates, political talk shows and so on... And frankly, I'm disappointed. Our prime populists Ansip and Savisaar are nothing compared to McCain and Obama.
McCain with his Joe the Plumber, Tom the Firefighter, Cathy the Baker BS. And how Obama tax changes would take away the money they earned with all this hard work. And they kept it going right through the end. When in reality Obama's tax plan would affect negatively only those who earn more than $220 000 a year. That's less than 5% of the population - definitely not Joe, Tom and Cathy. McCain should have focused on the possible collapse of social security system, instead he just... well... lied.
And Obama... just listen to him. Start with the speech from Denver democratic convention. It's like reading the first few pages of the Holy Book (and he rested on the seventh day from all his work). I simply can't stand it.

The supporters. Black/"Hussein" haters; Celebrities promising to leave their home land if McCain wins - that's not common sense, that's hysteria. An estimated 95% of African-Americans voted for Obama... Not racist at all.
When reporters asked random (I hope) people on the street for who and why they would vote, they got the same answers in USA and Estonia. McCain supporters: real American, older, experience, war hero. Obama supproters: first black, younger, change, hope (what's the English equivalent to "lootus on lolli lohutus"?)
No real ideas, only racism and slogans.

I realize that's not exactly an in-depth analysis... so it actually matches the mood of the election.

If I could have voted, I would have voted for Obama. But that's only because McCain IS old and the thought of Sarah Palin as the president of USA...
In the end both candidates blended into one. Best example of that: views on Iraq withdrawal.

The positive aspects of the election:
Endless material for comedy writers, parodies etc. The best "vote campaign" to date:
Don't Vote 1
Don't Vote 2
And of course Jeremiah Wright's NAACP speech in Detroit - the best standup comedy act I've seen for years...
"If you got some white friends, they'll be clapping like this, y'all."

Rainer ütles ...

As if to confirm my earlier comment: http://www.ekspress.ee/2008/11/06/arvamus/5235-koli-ruttu-eestist-ara

Giustino ütles ...

Obama has a very interesting relationship with both the Anglo and African-American communities.

In some ways, he's closer to the Anglo-Americans. That's who raised him. He is distantly related to eight American presidents.

Most African-Americans in the US today do not have fathers who were Kenyan economists. They don't have close family connections in Africa.

If you read his books, Obama's connections to "regular" African-Americans came as he was growing up, half forged by the way he perceived society saw him, half forged by his own personal relationships, ie. his marriage.

That's why I can't help but take this "first black president" meme tongue in cheek. Obama comes from a very unique background. He can go to Nairobi and talk about reform in Subsaharan Africa within a personal context. That is something neither Bill Clinton, nor Jesse Jackson, could ever do.

notsu ütles ...

@mõttetu mees: "An estimated 95% of African-Americans voted for Obama. Not racist at all"- I cannot figure where does the racist factor come in, considering that Obama's mother was Anglo-saxon, his father African (plus an Indonesian stepfather, to add to the cultural mix)?

Benno ütles ...

I was already dismayed when McCain picked Palin. And then I heard how she was receiving advice from former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. Kissinger, I believe, would sell out Eastern Europe in a heartbeat, call it "realism," and be praised for his hard-nosed approach to avoiding entangling alliances and protecting U.S. interests. Obama, on the other hand, counted amongst his foreign policy advisors Zbiginiew Brzezinski and Samantha Power, both of whom have been highly skeptical--and rightly so, I think--of the new Russia. Plus, a President Obama will find it far more difficult to back down when faced with any kind of aggression without being labeled an "appeaser." A President McCain could get away with it much more easily.

Giustino ütles ...

I have actually been reading Dr. Kissinger's book. I would be interested in his interpretation of the German leadership at the moment. Because, technically, as NATO members, there is a German-Polish military alliance. At the same time, there is intense German-Russian economic engagement.

This is not necessarily a bad set-up. Russia hypothetically would not threaten Poland and the Baltics for fear of irritating an important trading partner, Germany. Poland should not threaten German-Russian economic interests for fear of estranging Russia from this balance of power.

Hypothetically, then, Nord Stream, or something like it, should be built, BUT the Germans should welcome a radar site in southern Germany, not the Czech Republic, and a missile defense site in eatern Germany or western Poland. I know, sounds crazy, right.

I believe that as long as there is a deterrent, there is unlikely to be war in Europe. It was the lack of real deterrents that allowed Hitler to destroy the Versailles treaty provisions.

It was the lack of a real commitment from the Anglo-French alliance to safeguard Poland's independence that allowed Hitler and Stalin to carve up eastern Europe.

If they can get away with it; they'll try it. If they can't get away with it without risking their political lives, power, and personal finances, they won't.

Puhvis Kukk ütles ...

To notsu: what are you not getting? Granted, majority of blacks vote democratic anyhow but in this case it really seemed to be voting to get "one of them" into the White House. We stood in line and there were tons of blacks saying how this is the first time they have voted (!!!!) and they are voting for Obama. New voter turnout amongs blacks was huge. Highly doubt it was because of his politics.

Lot of people claimed that election was racist i.e. lot of people would not vote for Obama because his black. Fine, though I think that is a small minority of older generation. But how many voted for Obama BECAUSE he is black?

Kristopher ütles ...
Autor on selle kommentaari eemaldanud.
Kristopher ütles ...

Would Alan Keyes get many black votes if he were running against a white Democrat?

Demographics were a big issue in Obama's case, but not the race of the candidate.

In any case, it shouldn't be viewed as an accomplishment that a black person won. Just long overdue. I wonder how Native Americans voted.

I'm just glad that he's African-American enough for most people despite not having West African/slave roots.

To me the story is that his origins are so far away from wealth and power -- inspiring.

LPR ütles ...

The other day my black co-workers were talking about Obama barely-barely passing the "Brown Bag Test".

I never knew they had such a test.

Wv Sky ütles ...

It's a dirty little secret in America that Blacks are almost as racist against each other over the color of their skin, as whites are perceived to be against the Blacks. I grew up in a Black neighborhood and worked with Blacks all my life. One of the things I found really funny was that most of the Blacks I knew often made derogatory comments about other Blacks depending on their color. One of their favorite comments was "look at that High Yellow!". (A very light skinned Black) I have a friend from Kenya. He has been here for 25 years and is a businessman. He has run for many small political offices in his neighborhood, which is mostly Black, and has never been... and never WILL be elected to anything. Why? Several reasons: He's educated and sounds like it. He has a "slight" accent and it's not Ebonics from "da hood". He doesn't believe in government handouts... only hard work. Naturally, the local American Blacks can have non of that.

An interview was made on the streets of New York City: Blacks were approached and asked questions about Obama. But here's the funny thing: The interviewer reversed the policies of McCain with Obama, so the questions came out like this: "Do you approve of Obama's anti abortion stand?" ALL of the people interviewed agreed with McCAINS policies! What this told you is that they were voting for a Black, and not policies. So yes, between the many contacts I still have with Blacks it's very apparent to me that they voted for a Black, and for that reason alone. I'm sure that many Whites voted for McCain because he was White (at least in this case).

One thing Estonians may not realize that that Americas Blacks are Estonians Russians. We have the same issues that you do. (And I think you know what I'm talking about).

Anyway, this Obama Presidency will be very interesting. (Another dirty little secret in America are the bets taken as to when he'll be assassinated). Fact is... I'm not sure a a McCain Presidency would have been any better, but I still would have loved to have had other choices besides either one of these guys.

plasma-jack ütles ...

Americas Blacks are Estonians Russians. We have the same issues that you do. (And I think you know what I'm talking about).

No way. We never exported slaves (after the 13th century, at least) and our ancestors didn't steal anybody's land. Estonians are the natives that somehow managed to avoid being wiped out in our own land. I don't want to sound like a dick (can't help it), but our narrative is much cooler.

plasma-jack ütles ...

*IMported slaves, of course.

plasma-jack ütles ...

Btw, few centuries back the Huron had a functioning grass-root democracy and a social welfare system that partly inspired the French enlightenment and revolutionary ideals. Too bad they are not around consulting us now when things like these have become trendy.

Jens-Olaf ütles ...

Close to my opinion why Obama is good for Europe. It is this post of an american expat in Germany:
Andrew Hammel.
About why change matters.

Unknown ütles ...

I hoped he would win and so he did, great! I don´t discuss much politics with (local)friends and relatives but as much as I have, most indeed expressed their support to McCain, some based on their believes and some sadly because of race also. It has made me sad actually to see how much racism there is around us.

Vello ütles ...

Regarding whether blacks voted for Obama because he was black: many surely did. But I like to think blacks recognized Obama had a hell of a lot going for him other than his skin color.

Chisholm ran in '72 and wasn't a contender. Jackson ran in '84 and '88, and got something like 500 and then 1200 delegates, respectively. Everybody said the US wasn't ready for a black president. That was only 20 years ago. I kind of think that had there been a better black candidate than Jackson (obviously not my favorite), he might have garnered more than 1200 delegates. Maybe not.

But what's changed over those 20 years? (The arrival/success of Colin Powell and Condi Rice?) Have we matured enough that we're now magically ready for a black man? I'm not so sure. I prefer to think that Obama was a hell of a good candidate who also happened to be black.

Does that make sense?

Wv Sky ütles ...

plasma-jack, always remember one thing: Damned near EVERYONE was a slave to someone else in the course of man-kinds history. It was a very "normal" thing to do. Later, we called these slaves "indentured" workers at worst... or peasants at best. They were still slaves with somebody in control of their entire lives. That's not an excuse for the facts, it's just A fact.

Kristopher ütles ...

THe Estonian narrative is like having an American Indian become president (or a Yupiq or Inuk become vice-president, heh).

Now that would be a real occasion for us Americans to pat ourselves on the back in front of the rest of the world.

Kristopher ütles ...

(That was further to Plasma Jack.(

But WV Sky, don't you think American slavery is rather unique as far as its cruelty and purity was concerned?

And since you opened the Pandora's box, if Obama is targeted, it will be in what will be another coup (though of course it will not be called that) and the military and industrial complex will be behind it, not any KKKsmen.

LPR ütles ...

So far the plotters have been easy to spot - hard to blend in wearing white tuxedoes and top hats.

Was this in Onion or in mainstream news?

Ly Kesse ütles ...

Yes, most blacks voted for Obama.

But most blacks voted for Democrats in 2006. And considering the coded racist policies of the Republicans, any black would be crazy to vote for McCain.

The other point that tends to be missed is the blacks only account for 13% of the total population.

Alot of other voters are needed to lift a candidate into the presidency.

Now that Obama is there, let's see how he governs.

Juhan ütles ...

Russians are already calling these elections "unfair" and accuse everbody in having double standards.

Wv Sky ütles ...

if Obama is targeted, it will be in what will be another coup (though of course it will not be called that) and the military and industrial complex will be behind it, not any KKKsmen.

People give way too much credit to the Clan. It'spretty much a non event these days. No, the person who takes him out will be just your average "nut".

But WV Sky, don't you think American slavery is rather unique as far as its cruelty and purity was concerned?

Nothing unique about it. Not nearly as cruel as feeding the Christians to the lions for instance. How about Soviet slave labor camps? Millions died. In America, slaves cost BIG money. They werent "FREE" like the Soviets were. This means that the slave owner had quit an investment. Many slaves were treated quite well, while others were treated cruelly. But we certainly didn't have the market cornered on cruelty to slaves. Not that it's germane to this issue, but remember that most slaves were sold by the winners of warring tribes to the Dutch (at first). Also remember that 360,000 Union men died to free the slaves. That is far and away more than the number of slaves who ever died. (Probably by 355,000 or more)

Martin-Éric ütles ...

«Obama supproters: first black, younger, change, hope»

That sounds awfully close to what Russia was chanting when they elected a certain Vladimir Putin.

«One thing Estonians may not realize that that Americas Blacks are Estonians Russians.»

Yes indeed. Soviets stole people from their home in every corner of USSR to relocate them and treated them as disposable slave labor. In Estonia's case, there was the additional goal of trumping nationalistic dissent by diluting the ethnic fabric of Estonia.

Wv Sky ütles ...

Just to clarify my statement:
Americas Blacks are Estonians Russians.

I'm saying that America has some of the same issues with Blacks (especially crime) that Estonians have with the Russians. If I'm wrong on this, please correct me.

Kristopher ütles ...

Street crime? I've never thought of Russians being more criminal than Estonians. I'm sure there are parts of Kopli that you wouldn't wander around at night in, and they happen to be more Russian, but it's a stretch.

The only times I came close to being mugged, I was threatened in Estonian. Thug sorts of people. No doubt mixed-breed, hard to tell.

plasma-jack ütles ...

Sadly, wv sky has a point there. In 01.01.2007. we had 3265 inmates and 1045 persons arrested.
Of those 3265 guys in prison, there were 1464 Estonians, 1583 Russians, )and 55 Ukrainians, 45 Belorussians, 23 Romas, 18 Finns etc, even an odd guy from Korea.) 1080 of inmates were stateless, 177 were foreing nationals.

plasma-jack ütles ...

Although on street level I'd rather avoid Estonian goons. When a menacing looking Russian is already speaking to you, he probably asks for direction or smoke (or a quick call on your mobile phone, if you're really dumb), ie if he wanted a fight, he would already started it. On the other hand, talking back to an Estonian jõmm is almost always a bad idea.

Bäckman ütles ...

Is the request for "spishki yest" a prelude to a mugging? How can there be so many absent-minded Russian-speakers who forget their lighter or matches?

You would think the Estonian passport had a matchbook on the back cover -- I don't remember the last time I was asked "tuld on".