Friday, February 29, 2008

An Examination of UK Criticisms of Obama

It is often interesting for me to examine the attitudes towards our politics from a British perspective. The UK perception is indicative of a European mentality to an extent, though it would be a vast oversimplification to assume that the UK provides a patently and exclusively European viewpoint. Any critique it makes is filtered first through a nationalistic lens, then a continental one.

Consulting the British media as a source of supreme veracity in all matters caters to the Anglophilic tendencies among many of us on the American left, but it proves to often not be any more objective than our own media. Those who believe that the mainstream media in any country has a sort of fundamental objectivity ought to reconsider that sentiment strongly. British media presents a partisan bias, albeit one different from our own with its own unique sense of skewed perspective.

Consider this. The British right condemns Obama for many of the same reasons as does the American right, but phrases it slightly differently. Conservatives from the UK lambast Obama for being a proponent of French socialism, which is a revealing sentiment because it underscores a historic Francophobic sentiment in Great Britain which has persisted longer than our country has been a sovereign nation or even been compromised of immigrants from Europe. The commonality among the US and UK right is a patent fear of socialism and socialistic excess. The reality is that even if Obama was in fact some sort of closet socialist, he does not begin to have the power to transform this nation into a socialistic state. No presumptive President, Hillary Clinton included, has that sort of political clout or would stand a snowball's chance in hell of accomplishing such a thing. Americans have historically been very critical of increased taxation and increasing governmental oversight in their own lives, particularly when proposed from the left. The only way they would ever concede to socialism is if it was pushed from the GOP in some sort of stealth manner. And if the current administration should be credited for anything, it has increased the role of government, albeit not in a socialistic fashion, but rather a fascist sense.

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Among the left, the UK left lambasts Americans, particularly conservative Americans, for still adhering to a sense of racial prejudice that is evidenced by the very fact that we would even still be contemplating racial dynamics in this day and age. Furthermore, that this blatant racism could even be seriously utilized as a means of discrediting another candidate is the larger point they raise.

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Their argument essentially boils down to "Why Is This Even Still An Issue?" and it casts a shadow of skepticism that a brutal nation like ours could ever really cast aside the issue of race when selecting its President. That is a notion belied by those of us on the left, even those of us who support Hillary Clinton.

Underneath this critique is a damning indictment that raised a valid point. If Obama were to run in an EU country, his policies would seem center-right, not liberal or left-leaning. These criticisms have some merit because Obama has thus far positioned himself, arguably, as a more moderate leftist and not the flaming tax and spend, expanded government, liberal the GOP would have us believe and will continually assert over the course of the next seven months.

Obama yesterday drew a sharp attack from Trevor Phillips, an arguably influential black British figure, whose politics have been criticized as far-right by critics. Though condemned by many Britons, these criticisms reveal a skepticism among conservative UK blacks that is two part. a) That he is a conciliatory black figure who has decided to integrate into white society rather than fight for a unique black perspective in racial politics and b) a cynicism that Obama is a mere charlatan who is no more authentic and genuine than the husband of the woman he is running against in the Democratic primary.

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What can be safely drawn from all of these perspectives is a decided sense of sour grapes, regardless of political allegiance. Much to the dismay of the rest of the world, we are the most powerful country on the face of the earth, with the most powerful economy, and the biggest guns. We have been for quite some time now and these attitudes have grown rather entrenched in our neighbors across the ocean. Though it is interesting to contemplate their particular perspective and give credit and contemplation to the points they raise, what we should first understand is that they are just as biased as we are. Their base prejudices and assertions about us may or may not be any less potent than our critique of them. The truth lies somewhere in between and even that is clouded by every individual's take. Even I writing this out to you have my own agenda and ulterior motive, though I would safely entertain that mine is probably more in line with yours.

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