Watching Obama’s inauguration as the 44th President of the United States of America it was impossible to avoid the conclusion that this event would have been radically different had McCain, or Hillary Clinton, won on November 4th 2008.
It’s hard to imagine two million people turning up to flood the Mall, to surround the new President, to enwrap him and his administration in their hopes, had it been someone else. Barack Obama has come to embody something for the American people that I find difficult to understand in whole.
Partly the acclamation must be influenced by the nature of the person Obama succeeds in the Oval Office. George W Bush has been a monumentally unpopular and incompetent president, and the sense of relief at his departure is palpable even from far away on the other side of the world, on the other side of the day.
But that’s not the entirety of the faith and belief that so many Americans seem to have in their first African American leader. Obama stands as a symbol of the social evolution of the USA since the Civil Rights movement, which is still well within living memory for so many of his fellow citizens. Activists of every hue fought for that equality, and to see that outcome personified in a man who is such a great orator, must be immensely satisfying to so many.
Clinton would not have embodied the feminist struggle in the same way, had she ascended to head her state this year. Feminism as a movement is quite divided, and many still deny that there is a need for feminism at all, whereas racial equality in the US is widely accepted as desirable. There is still racism, and there is still a great deal of subtle discrimination that is less overt but racist none the less. Those who deny it exists are much more fringe-dwellers than those who routinely deny the difficulties women still face.
One day a woman will win the presidency, and it will be in our lifetimes. I hope she’s someone whose politics I can support, and that I can have another bouncy morning of hope like I did today.