U.S. campaign making history

The China Post news staff

No matter who wins, the people of America will be making an historic choice when they go to the polls in November’s presidential election. If they choose the Democratic Party’s nominee, Barack Obama, they will have placed an African-American in the nation’s highest office for the very first time. If more voters choose Republican Party nominee John McCain, Alaska Governor Sarah Palin will become the first woman to serve as U.S. vice president. A glass ceiling will be shattered. The only surprise will come in who shatters it first. It should not be surprising that this year’s U.S. presidential contest has evoked widespread curiosity and media attention here in Taiwan. Coverage of the U.S. campaign has injected a breath of fresh air into our news media at a time when most public attention has been focused on the money laundering allegations snowballing around former president Chen Shui-bian. While people in Taiwan are growing increasingly disgusted and disillusioned with the state of democratic politics here, their counterparts in the United States are brimming with newfound idealism and enthusiasm. This was aptly demonstrated by the highly successful nomination speech given by Democratic nominee Barack Obama, whose campaign team orchestrated an impressive outdoor rally of more than 80,000 supporters. Obama’s speech was laden with idealism and evoked memories of the famous “I have a dream” speech given 45 years earlier by civil rights leader Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. But at the same time, Obama refrained from dwelling on the past and painted an inspirational picture of what the United States might be like if he were elected president. Throughout his campaign, and especially during his state-to-state primary battle against rival Hillary Clinton, Obama has successfully mobilized formerly inactive voters and young people to build up a strong campaign organization. At present, Obama has many more campaign offices and volunteers than his Republican opponent, including many in places that the Republicans have long taken for granted. Obama’s strategy of opening multiple campaign offices, known as “build it and they will come,” will surely be closely studied by our own politicians in future elections.

For his part, McCain has emboldened his supporters both by his maverick style of leadership and through his choice of the Alaska governor to be his running mate. While McCain has been in politics for decades, he has repeatedly gone against the grain of mainstream politics, even openly disagreeing with leaders of his own party. In the Senate, McCain has waged a high-profile battle against the longtime policy of “earmarking” — the practice of attaching budget items to unrelated bills directing funds to pork-barrel projects located in their home districts. McCain’s choice of Sarah Palin conforms to his practice of rebelling against political insiders. While Palin is still largely unknown in U.S. national politics, she has earned a reputation in her home state for routing out wasteful spending and overturning the state’s powerful Republican establishment.

In 2006, she managed to defeat incumbent Alaska Governor Frank Murkowski in the Republican primary and went on to defeat her Democratic opponent despite being vastly outspent during the campaign. McCain’s surprise choice of Palin has been interpreted as a blatant attempt to capture at least some of the voters who had been supporting the campaign of Democrat Hillary Clinton.

No matter what reasons are behind McCain’s vice presidential decision, it is now clear that even conservative politicians in the U.S. are more than ready to elect a woman to high office.