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
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Environmental Adviser - Maternity Cover

£37040 - £43600 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The UK's export credit agency a...

Recruitment Genius: CBM & Lubrication Technician

£25000 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides a compreh...

Recruitment Genius: Care Worker - Residential Emergency Service

£16800 - £19500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to join an organ...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Landscaper

£25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: In the last five years this com...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Labour's Jeremy Corbyn arrives to take part in a Labour party leadership final debate, at the Sage in Gateshead, England, Thursday, Sept. 3  

Jeremy Corbyn is here to stay and the Labour Party is never going to look the same again

Andrew Grice
Serena Williams  

As Stella Creasy and Serena Williams know, a woman's achievements are still judged on appearance

Holly Baxter
Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones