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The other face of the US

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The final round of the US elections was a breathtaking show. Not because of its dramatic results, but because of how America showed us what Respekt likes about it: big ideas and fulfilled faith in the American dream on the side of the winner Barack Obama and generosity, reconciliation and dignity on the side of John McCain. This gave us a chance to see the Americans getting moral encouragement, which they really needed after the events of the last few months. This, of course, doesn’t mean a happy ending has arrived and we can fall asleep in peace. In one way, the really important things are yet to come. For the major part of the Czech Republic, however, this beginning has a specific aftertaste.

Leave the cover alone
Barack Obama won the most votes in the history of US elections, and his entry into the White House has unveiled the United States’ other face. For the last nearly two decades during which the Czechs have enjoyed free access to information, a consensus has ruled in Washington, which we had a reason to associate with the United States as a nation. America represented free market economy and conservative morals. That’s how we knew Ronald Reagan’s America and that of his successors and of the subscriber to the Third Way, Bill Clinton, who was not very different from them. It was, above all, Czech right-wing politicians who liked to say this was the core of America, while comparing its healthy enthusiasm with the sleepy indulgence of “socialist” western Europe. When problems occurred in Europe, they would often have words of disregard from those who think they know the only right solution.

Now it turns out that reality is more complicated, however. Supported by the majority of Democrats in Congress, Obama is entering the White House, showing a different face of the United States. This America is suddenly more colourful and represents a higher diversity regarding culture, race, gender and opinion. Voices saying it is immoral to raise taxes, promote the “fashionable” green policy, redistribute money from rich to poor or impose stricter economy regulations are now marginalised, while the opposite opinions become every day agenda among politicians and experts who represent the mainstream opinion.

Now, we are facing an America that doesn’t focus on who does what with whom in bed, but rather on depriving people of existential problems and restoring American confidence. America is a country with a growing percentage of multicultural and multiracial partnerships that produce generations whose identity is becoming less distinct. Increasingly more Americans move to cities and they are better educated. According to statistics, people who represent the new face of the United States voted for change represented by Barack Obama, the son of an American and a Kenyan, raised in Indonesia and the Pacific. People with annual income exceeding USD 200,000, those who will have to pay higher taxes according to Obama’s plans also voted for the first black president.

John McCain’s supporters were mainly conservative white Americans, people from the countryside and small towns, meaning Americans, whose world is becoming more endangered and enclosed day by day.

Obama, of course, is not going to heal all the pain of today’s America. But it is clear that the new president can at least help restore confidence the United States needs so much. A liberating confession comes with Obama that the success of America in the era of Reagan significantly drained money designated for the future, moreover, it was based, to a certain extent, on wrong the beliefs in economic values, which – as the Lehman Brothers crisis showed – were only empty nutshells.

Speaking of which, it is important to say that socialism or even communism aren’t alternatives to the Reagan economy, as neo-liberals tend to say. The alternative is the social-ecological concept of economy as being invoked by the European Union. In this regard, it is necessary to view the current shift of the US toward Europe and, on the other hand, the satisfaction of western Europeans with Obama’s victory.

Eastern European countries’ relation to Obama is logically more complicated. They are tied with the Reagan-era United States based on its active role in the fall of the Iron Curtain as well as the fear of possible future threats. The Eastern Europe would suffer more from a possible US weakness regarding Russia and Obama’s intentions in this regard are entirely unknown. There is nothing else we can do but wait.

Their dose of ideals
That may be why the Czech reaction to Obama was mainly related to his economic plans. Conservative analysts write about a bubble that is about to burst, promises that are impossible to keep or extreme leftism.

Let’s for now leave alone Obama’s promises, some of which may turn out to be unrealisable. But that’s not what matters now in the Czech Republic. The important thing is how the financial crisis, Obama’s big victory or the EU’s recession fear could influence the Czechs’ view of politics and economy in general.

It’s not the guessing competition which one of Obama’s bubbles will burst first and which one later what matters now. Czech right-wing politicians and those who support them in the media must admit that we are at the end of one era and at the beginning of another. Up until now, we have lived in the belief that Europe is socialist, while we admired Reagan’s liberal America. But Reagan’s America became history 4 November. What do we do about it? A realistic confession is the first step, and the second – much more complicated – is to get ready for problems that may come. And they likely will as the Czech economy relies on export, and export relies on the sales of vehicles which are quite a shaky certainty.

Of course, there aren’t any easy and fast solutions, but rather the long-lasting European way of investments into education, innovation, the support of active people or interesting projects. But it is not just that. The right-wing pro-reformist political fraction can write and approve the most perfect reforms, but if it fails to gain wider political support and to convince voters, they will be all for nothing. People demand more protection and certainties as well as their dose of ideals from compelling leaders. And that’s why the Obama lesson is not a bubble.

Translated with permission by the Prague Daily Monitor.

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