Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Hoping for a little breathing room under President Obama

Probably the greatest benefit to the election of Barack Obama as the next president of the United States is to see a man of mixed race rise to the highest political office in a nation with a troubled racial history. When the senator from Illinois was born, African-Americans were in the midst of a fight for equal treatment before the law that sometimes turned violent. Now he's set to take up residence in the White House.

Senator Obama didn't just squeak in with a plurality vote, either -- he won a credible 52% of votes cast, for a six-point margin over Senator McCain.

If nothing else, I think this election put to rest the increasingly tired canard that the United States of America is a "racist country." That's not to say that racism is dead -- tribalism of all sorts seems to be an inherent human failing. But racism is very clearly no longer a ceiling to the aspirations of Americans, including the descendants of people who were forced into slavery.

Another potential benefit of the election is a likely modest improvement in respect for at least some civil liberties by the federal government. As I've written before, Barack Obama enjoyed a clear advantage over John McCain in terms of his positions on important civil liberties issues. In particular, he's reliably pro-choice on abortion and related reproductive rights. He also favors closing the prison at Guantanamo Bay and ending the use of military tribunals for accused terrorists. On the campaign trail, Obama has voiced suport for some elements of drug-policy reform, such as ending the federal government's jihad against medical marijuana and fixing the disparity in sentencing for powder and crack cocaine.

And while Senator Obama disappointingly voted to renew the PATRIOT Act and to authorize warrantless wiretaps, he does have a somewhat better record on privacy and due process issues than his defeated main rival for the presidency.

Matters of concern include the potential for the imposition of political censorship on radio and TV via a renewed Fairness Doctrine. While he has disavowed any interest in such a move, high-level congressional Democrats do favor the Fairness Doctrine, and he'll likely be under some pressure from that quarter.

Senator Obama also favors some sort of mandatory national service for high school students, and has a history of hostility to the right to bear arms, although any strong moves in that area would run up against the recent Heller decision.

As for economic freedom ... Obama's increasingly obvious hostility to free trade, the free market, small government and the right of Americans to keep what they earn would be much more disappointing if Senator McCain hadn't himself been so contemptuous of free markets and private-sector success. Frankly, we were all going to lose on this issue no matter who won, though divided government might have slowed Leviathan down just a bit.

Overall, after eight years of overweening and often abusive government under President Bush, there's reason to hope for a little breathing room under President Obama. That may not be a lot to go on, but in an era when most prominent politicians seem to be competing to intrude the farthest into Americans' lives, that's probably the best we can hope for.

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Blogger BobG said...

"Overall, after eight years of overweening and often abusive government under President Bush, there's reason to hope for a little breathing room under President Obama."

You're more optimistic that I am; I expect them to act no different, they'll just be going after a different set of freedoms than the Republicans. We still lose out, no matter who is in charge.

November 5, 2008 2:26 PM  

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