Thursday, November 6, 2008

The end of 'politics as satire'

A day after the historic election of Barack Obama as president of the United States of America I think it has finally sunk in that things will never quite be the same again.

Taking in the election at the home of an employee of the Special Court for Sierra Leone, on a couch with some Americans and a couple of Canadians watching the over-the-top graphics on CNN and making fun of the staid and boring BBC, we sit awaiting the news.

The mood is upbeat, giddy even, as we use our great legal and political minds to deconstruct the media coverage into stand-up comedy routines. We are the John Stewart generation, where politics is satire.

A day after the election it hit me that this may no longer be the case. The hope for change that has propelled Barack Obama to power is the call for the end of politics as satire. The mandate that Obama has been given is one of a return to leadership through excellence and decision making through consensus building - for the people, of the people, by the people.

Folksy charm and a promise of a return to family values provided an effective mask for a bumbling, conservative ideologue and allowed Bush to be elected in 2000. That election turned into 8 years of unmitigated disaster. Those 8 years created not just voter apathy, but a split in the national psyche. Red or Blue, patriot or traitor, with us or against us.

The movement to elect Barack Obama was the rejection of a politics ruled by war, evangelical christian social policy and neo-liberal economic policies that has seen the country nearly go morally, as well as financially, bankrupt.

We now see how the debate on torture, secret prisons, wiretapping and limiting civil liberties, while cutting taxes and deregulating the financial markets, has turned out.

Americans and the international community cried out for the country to right itself and to try to be the America from the myth, the one from the dream, instead of the one that seemed happy to enrich the rich and subjegate the poor around the world.

With the decision to choose a community organizer, a radical shift from the parochial interests of a closed inner circle, with a leader insulated by sycophantic advisors, America is choosing to reclaim its decision making processes, to reclaim its political power. The possibilities seem endless.

Politics as satire may now be over. There will always be right wing radio hosts to make fun of, but it won't be as much fun anymore. With this new democratic mandate their blather becomes irrelevant background noise.

2009 sees the beginning of a new era in American politics and John Stewart might be out of business.

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