21 Apr 2008

Getting Obama Wrong

Gitaru Warigi has a succinct analysis of the security problems raised by the Mungiki movement in Kenya but a fettered view of US politics at the end of his otherwise useful piece in Nairobi' Sunday Nation. Warigi sees Obama's nomination by the Democrats and his success subsequently again John McCain as a matter of race. My response to him by letter:

"Whilst your analysis of the Mungiki situation (SN 20th April) was superb, your dissection of the Obama nomination in the USA was crippled by a narrow perspective.

Contrary to popular fantasy, Americans are open to a non-white President though admittedly a minority are not. Colin Powell would have waltzed to victory in 1992 had he accepted the Republican nomination, but for personal reasons he refused.

Perhaps the overwhelming ethnicity of Kenya politics makes it hard for some to see that objections to an Obama candidacy or Presidency stem not primarily from his race, but from his electability. He is fervent left-winger in a country that is centrist or right of centre politically.

By contrast McCain is a moderate Republican, even a maverick, with a strong populist streak endearing to independant voters. It is these who decide Presidential elections and not the strident minority of Democratic or Republican activists in primaries.

I agree Obama will probably win the Democratic nomination. The Democrats are utterly unelectable in the USA without their usual 90% black support - despite up till the 19040's Blacks solidly voted for the Republicans, the party of Lincoln. That turn-around is another story. You are right that Democratic Party bigwigs will commit suicide politically to deny Obama the nomination, but their objections again have nothing to do with their "whiteness" - but Obama's ideology and thus electability.

To beat McCain, Obama will be scrutinised like never before and his inexperience and extreme left-wing ( in American terms) Senate record could well cost him the final prize - but not first and foremost, as you imagine. his race. Democrats, Republicans, PNO, ODM, New Labour or what-have-you possess one characteristic - a desire to win regardless of candidate."

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