THE ROVING EYE
The keys to the country
By Pepe Escobar
KEY WEST, Florida - The state of Florida was a case study of how the 2008
United States presidential election was won. Talk about will to power.
Implanted in the Barack Obama campaign mindset, articulated by the "two Davids"
- former Obama chief strategist Axelrod and campaign manager Plouffe - an
uncontroversial Florida win would not only erase the nightmarish hanging chad
film noir of eight years ago but achieve burning bright redemption by routing
the Republicans with an overwhelming ground game, part of the most
sophisticated field operation in the history of American politics.
From the point of view of Obamaland, the alluring, swinging Sunshine State
became an obsession - even more than Ohio.
Money was no object. The campaign deployed 250,000 volunteers clustered around
100 field offices getting out the vote with phone banks and knocking
door-to-door, canvassing cops and cars and manicured boulevards, derelict
wastelands and bastions of privilege, outspending the McCain campaign on the
airwaves three to one.
It boiled down to the - vital - matter of selling a polished black intellectual
from Chicago who was virtually unknown in Florida only five months ago. Bill
Clinton and Al Gore, superstars in their own right, hit the stage in Florida in
the last week of campaigning only after Obama had proved he could win the
Sunshine State by himself.
In the end, Obama got almost 71% of new registered voters in Florida. Boosted
by swing voters, independents, African Americans, the bulk of the vote from
Central and South Americans, and young Cuban Americans, he beat McCain 51% to
48%, paving the road to that moment in time the Reverend Martin Luther King
dreamed of. Joe the Plumber in Ohio may have not, but Jose el Plomero in
Florida voted Obama.
The long and winding road
Time waits for no president-elect. But it will take time for the symbolism of
November 4 to sink in - that cool, calm, collected one man melting pot smile
imprinted on the face of the planet, as if every corner of Earth was allowed to
dream in American again and sing, as One, Obambopaloobop Obambamboom.
It's been a long time comin'. Obama is post-everything, and not only
ethnically. A former colleague at the University of Chicago law faculty
describes him as a "visionary minimalist". A dreamer, yes - but within
The world, still ecstatic, will soon notice that Obama is also all about
post-ethnic civic nationalism. Make no mistake: in his own way, he also wants a
New American century. His speeches tell the story. He truly believes in
American exceptionalism and in the US manifest destiny.
But he is not an ideologue. He does not position himself as a liberal or a
centrist. He is above all a pragmatist. His speeches also stress that it's not
about left and right. It's not about big government or small government. It's
about a government that works.
How will it work? Americans at this historical juncture are not allowed to be
"crackpot realists" - as C Wright Mills would put it. Everyone has to become a
critical intellectual. As Obama himself said in his acceptance speech,
road ahead will be long. Our climb will be steep. We may not get there in one
year or even in one term. But America, I have never been more hopeful that I am
tonight that we will get there. I promise you, we as a people, we'll get there.
The keys to the highway
Obama has to bridge the gulf not only between black and white but red and blue
and rich and poor. The Bush era meant eight years of non-stop redistribution of
wealth from the bottom to the top, and the crystallization of the US as the
most socially unequal among all industrialized economies. But Americans have
had enough. A recent Gallup poll reveals 58% - and 84% of Democratic voters -
believe money and wealth should be more evenly distributed in the US.
Obama has to - literally - climb to the mountain top and challenge the $700
billion taxpayer bailout of Wall Street. Will he dare to re-regulate Wall
Street in the public interest?
He has to come clean about a health plan that won't be run and controlled by
hardcore corporate insurance companies, ultra-conservative hospital
associations and the Big Pharma industry. Why not a universal single payer
He has to come clean on his relationship with Big Agrobusiness. He has to
explain how fiscal austerity will be compatible with creating jobs. How bailing
out Wall Street is compatible with productive investment. And how the cracked
up framework of the "war on terror" is compatible with a domestic recovery.
The Pentagon celebrated Obama's election by bombing a wedding party in Kandahar
province in Afghanistan - 48 dead, mostly women and children, and scores of
Obama wants a surge in Afghanistan. Obama wants to expand the framework of the
"war on terror" inside the Pakistani tribal areas. Obama wants redeployment in
Iraq - not withdrawal. He does not have a clearly defined deadline to leave
Iraq because the Pentagon lodged in Iraq is directly tied to access to oil in
the Middle East and a non-stop war of attrition with Iran, Syria and Hezbollah
in Lebanon. Obama has not renounced unconditional support to Israel's
neo-colonial war on Palestine and relentless expansion of Israeli settlements
in the West Bank - one of the root causes of virtually all the grief in the
And then there's that "other" America.
Will Obama understand the reach and transformative power of profound social
movements in Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador, Paraguay, all over Latin America?
Will he understand that the Monroe Doctrine is dead - and Latin America as a
whole is more than willing for a mature relationship with the US?
Sunsets are fabulous in Key West. Cuba is just 144 kilometers away.
Will Obama have the courage to end a failed, painful and criminal embargo -
he's already been called on it by Hugo Chavez in Venezuela and President Luiz
Inacio Lula in Brazil - an embargo that banishes the purchase of spare parts
for diagnostic equipment used in cancer detection, delays the delivery of
millions of syringes for vaccinations against communicable diseases, and blocks
access to imported seeds, fertilizers and spare parts for farm machinery? The
US embargo is an embargo against ordinary Cubans.
Geographically, the United States of America ends here at the tip of Florida.
Politically, the long Bush night of the soul also ends here - in slightly over
70 days. Historically, led by a cool black man with a weapon of mass seduction
- his unlimited soft power - this passage of time has the potential to be the
prelude to a new day dawning. It's up to engaged, tirelessly mobilized US civil
society - and for the whole world for that matter - to turn hope into reality,
and help this man "change America, and change the world".