Leading Article: Yes. We. Can.

Share
Related Topics

The certainty of Barack Obama's victory in the struggle for the Democratic Party nomination has been hardening for so many months that Hillary Clinton's formal concession was significant for its timing and tone rather than its content. For several months now, the Clinton campaign has been running on the basis that "anything can happen" – a basis made explicit by Mrs Clinton in unfortunate terms when she pointed out that Bobby Kennedy was assassinated in June of the 1968 primary season.

Even that, though, was not the real story. In reality, the Clinton campaign since March has been primarily one for the vice-presidential nomination. That campaign for second place has been, if anything, more forlorn than her attempt at the first prize. Mr Obama is no fool – that much, at least, has been established by this campaign – and was never likely to choose her as his running mate. Those demographic groups that her supporters claim she would bring to the ticket – the white working class, Hispanics and Roman Catholics – are mostly part of the Democratic base. They may have preferred her to Mr Obama in the primaries, but in the general election they are likely to rally to the Democratic candidate, whoever that may be. Besides, Mr Obama does not really want Bill Clinton as a third person on his ticket.

Thank you, then, Mrs Clinton, and goodnight. Yet her formal withdrawal from the race still marks a transition to a new level. However compelling the story of the primaries has been, this is now something bigger.

The general election starts with Barack Obama as the favourite, although his opinion-poll lead over John McCain, the Republican, is narrow – an average of three percentage points merely. Yet there is clearly something more enduring about Mr Obama's electoral appeal than the speaking style of a preacher, the timing of a stand-up comic and the articulate intelligence of a professor. In the highly personalised American system, his biography and character offer a leadership that makes possible the previously unthinkable.

In his book he tells the story of how a political consultant suggested that he would have to change his name after 9/11 if he were to have a future in politics, because of its similarity to Osama bin Laden. Indeed, he has been called Mr Osama, often by mistake in recent months, but it has not mattered.

As President, he offers to transcend divisions on the global stage. As Rupert Cornwell points out on page 32, by virtue of his ancestry and upbringing, he will transform the image of the United States in the world. As a man with an African father, brought up in a Muslim country, Indonesia, he would change American foreign relations simply by being in the White House.

This has huge implications for the infant doctrine of liberal interventionism, still in intensive care after the tragedy of Iraq. Looking back over this past week, we cannot afford to wave the doctrine away as a mistake of the Bush-Blair era. In Zimbabwe, Burma and Darfur, the world has an urgent obligation to give meaning to the new dictum of the United Nations, the "responsibility to protect". And in this debate Tony Blair was right about at least one thing: American power is crucial.

As we report today on page 10, in Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe's campaign to retain power by intimidation and brutality continues unabated. Britain's role is constrained by Mugabe's use of our colonial history for propaganda purposes, but imagine for a moment the moral authority that could be brought to bear by a US President of part Kenyan descent. More than Mr McCain, Mr Obama offers the hope that we, the international community, can act together to set oppressed peoples free.

Mr Obama's willingness to engage in dialogue with leaders historically hostile to the US opens up the possibility that America's pre-eminent military strength might be used in future for humanitarian ends without provoking the kind of blow-back generated in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Both Mr McCain and Mr Obama would represent a welcome change in US leadership from George Bush. Indeed, the main reason Mr McCain secured his party's nomination was that he is as different from President Bush as it is possible to be and still be a Republican. On the issues that this newspaper cares about, Mr McCain has particular credibility on environmental policy. But when it comes to projecting US military power abroad, Mr McCain's policy would too easily be perceived as a continuation of that of Mr Bush.

American elections are the nearest that we have to a global democratic debate, and, already, Mr Obama has engaged people's sympathies outside America like never before. Not least for the sake of the people of Zimbabwe, we are drawn to the audacity of the hope he holds out.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: Science Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: I am currently working in partnersh...

Recruitment Genius: Doctors - Dubai - High "Tax Free" Earnings

£96000 - £200000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Looking for a better earning p...

Recruitment Genius: PHP Developer

£32000 - £36000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A rapidly expanding company in ...

Recruitment Genius: PA

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A PA is required to join a leading provider of...

Day In a Page

Read Next
British Prime Minister Tony Blair (L) pictured shaking hands with Libyan leader Colonel Moamer Kadhafi on 25 March 2004.  

There's nothing wrong with Labour’s modernisers except how outdated they look

Mark Steel
 

Any chance the other parties will run their election campaigns without any deceit or nastiness?

Nigel Farage
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee
World War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel

Max Brooks honours Harlem Hellfighters

The author talks about race, legacy and his Will Smith film option to Tim Walker
Why the league system no longer measures up

League system no longer measures up

Jon Coles, former head of standards at the Department of Education, used to be in charge of school performance rankings. He explains how he would reform the system
Valentine's Day cards: 5 best online card shops

Don't leave it to the petrol station: The best online card shops for Valentine's Day

Can't find a card you like on the high street? Try one of these sites for individual, personalised options, whatever your taste
Diego Costa: Devil in blue who upsets defences is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

Devil in blue Costa is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

The Reds are desperately missing Luis Suarez, says Ian Herbert
Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Former one-day coach says he will ‘observe’ their World Cup games – but ‘won’t be jumping up and down’
Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness