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Obama Phenomenon in U.S.
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15:33, June 16, 2008

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The skin color of Senator Barack Obama poses the greatest focus of attention in the ongoing U.S. presidential election campaign this year. This Democratic nominee with half of the blood from the African stock in his veins has been commended as the "star of change", who now seems to look especially dazzling and splendid with his victory in the recent primaries.

The Times of London saw Obama's victory as evidence that "the United States remains a land of opportunity."

"This moment's significance is the resounding proof of the truism about America as a land of opportunity: Mr. Obama's opportunity to graduate from Harvard and take Washington by storm," it wrote.

It said that his victory also demonstrates "the opportunity that the world's most responsive democratic system gives its voters to be inspired by an unknown; the opportunity that outsiders now have to re-assess the superpower that too many of them love to hate.

One of the causes for the Western media to lavish overpraises onto Obama is owed to his (skin) color, and the other cause is the change that he may bring to American society. Hence, it could be the best and most ideal annotation of the "American dream" if the image of the United States is hopefully to alter with the election of a young black president.

Indeed, Sen. Barak Obama does not at all represent the white Anglo-Saxon protestants (WASP), those who belong to the group of middle- and upper-class Americans descended from the British or Northern European settlers, generally regarded as the traditional dominant or privileged group in the U.S. His success, nevertheless, is because he does not underscore his racial features, and has even intentionally drawn a clear line with those radical blacks. So, it can be said that Obama triumphs either because of his skin color or not because of it.

He has a different skin color (with whites) but shares the "same American background". Obama represents a superb talent or gifted graduate from a top-rate American university, and he is the representative of the racial merging rather than a symbol for assimilation. So his rise has not done away with privileges for the white Americans but reinforces their privileges on the contrary.

The status of black Americans has of course upgraded or improved much to date, as compared with three or four decades ago. However, such an attainment they have obtained is ascribed first to struggles waged by the black people themselves, secondly to social progress as more and more white Americans have become aware that racial discrimination runs counter to the historical trend, and thirdly to the acknowledgement of the black people to the mainstream American values. Obama is, of course, without exception. That's the reason he needs all the more to display his American values than any white presidential candidates.

Obama's acknowledgment of an "American background" helps us acquire a better understanding of his another charismatic hallmark, that is, being young and vigorous. It seems that Obama is more able to meet a psychological demand of the general public for social change. Turbulent prospects, a face-off between the fledgling, young black lawyer Obama versus the seasoned yet crafty white veteran John McCain, and the general sentiment in the U.S. to aspire for both a new start and renewed stability … If in view of all these factors put together, how big is Obama's preponderance over McCain?

In fact, such acute contests in the current presidential race does not lie in vital differences in the administrative programs or policies but the inevitability the nominees of both parties voice for the pressing, major social change. Both the Democratic and Republican presidential hopefuls are expected to play the "reform" card that is sure to be contained or curbed likewise in many spheres and so it will be difficult for them to show their great disparities.

In the case of Iraq war, Obama is quite determined and resolute with his attitude against the war. But, as a matter of fact, how to withdraw the American forces from Iraq and, if they are really pulled out, then how to cope with its internal turmoil in the country once that happens? No one is convinced that such a complex issue can be resolved with the firm approach alone. And similar or identical issues also exist in such fields as economy, social security and education.

Furthermore, American voters do not necessarily fail to recognize that every new president will have a very limited authority to stand over the course of his own commitment even on the first day he assumes presidency. Social change perhaps occur, but it needs a lot of pre-conditions and time required. For either Obama or McCain, the crux of the matter is how to enable voters to know their detailed plans and how to confide these voters even more in the eventual fulfillment of their plans. As for onlookers of the American presidential race, they should bear in mind that they should not be confused by a change of roles on the "performing stage" but see clearly what changes these roles are to make.

By People's Daily Online and its author is PD senior desk editor Ding Gang.

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