Thursday, February 07, 2008

Values and votes

I was born in Bangladesh, but raised in Paris, New York and Bangkok, and I now live in London. I'm not even a US citizen. Nor am I a campaign addict. I have never campaigned for any Bangladeshi candidate. I have never asked anyone for their time, their attention, their vote. But here I am, on the corner of Prospect and Mass Ave, cheering for a man who will never be my president.
--the Bangladeshi novelist Tahmima Anam explains why she supports Barack Obama. Anam is a secular liberal. But Nicholas Kristof, writing about electability, notes that Obama polls "surprisingly well among [U.S.] evangelical Christians, an important constituency in swing states":
Relevant magazine, which caters to young evangelicals, asked its readers: “Who would Jesus vote for?” Mr. Obama was the winner and came out 27 percentage points ahead of Mrs. Clinton.
Part of the reason for Obama's appeal seems to be that he articulates clear values (see Ganz) that have both a religious and internationalist non-sectarian dimension ("Religious commitment did not require me to suspend critical thinking, disengage from the battle for economic and social justice, or otherwise retreat from the world that I knew and loved". -- The Audacity of Hope). He may be seen as, among other things, the positive to the 2004 negative which Simon Critchley analyses in an essay on Crypto-Schmittianism:
The astonishing and much-discussed factoid about the presence of moral values in the exit polls from [November 2004] and which caused a minor panic amongst American liberals, is [that] Citizens are making political decisions that are really moral judgments and these judgments flow from a dogmatic metaphysics, to be precise God as the depoliticizing instance par excellence...One might say that the strong connection between faith, morality and politics is one of the most enduring features of civil society in the US since the time of the original violent settlement, through to the eulogies of Tom Paine and Tocqueville. The left ignores that connection at its peril.
[Timothy Garton Ash notes the phenomenon of the U.S. primaries as a political version of the World Cup: "participation without representation", and makes several good points. "Suppose the election were not for another country's president but for the leadership of the United Nations, the World Bank or the IMF". What about the EU, Tim?]

P.S. The "other" values: McCain to CPAC. Andrew Sullivan says this is conservatism to be proud of. The rhetoric is impressive. What are the deliverables? They include: easily available assault weapons for personal use, a cut in corporate tax rates, and bomb bomb bomb, bomb bomb Iran.

P.S. 10 Feb: Only today did I catch up with Anthony Barnett on Taking Obama Seriously which is well worth reading. It includes a reminder of Obama's foresight on Iraq ("I am not opposed to all wars. I'm opposed to dumb wars" - excerpted from here). AB cites this convincingly in support Toni Morrison's claim that creative imagination coupled with brilliance adds up to wisdom in this case.

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