President of the World … or, the American Dream, Made in America and, Really, Only in America?

by Kenneth Anderson

I’m hopping on a plane shortly, so I can’t fill this out as I’d like.  And anyway, it is probably too early to say very much other than to note the question, which is this.

Peter and others have claimed the Obama election as something for the world, and even as (maybe, with many qualifications, etc., etc.), sort of honorary president of the world.  I don’t believe that the record over time will bear this out, but that may be because I lack the Whig history gene.  But, okay, maybe it will; what do I know?  Whether it does or not recapitulates an argument among cosmopolitan platonists and people who are realists of a certain kind, at least on that issue.  We can – and do – argue about that proposition endlessly, but let’s turn and see something else.

Note how different the source of praise for this election that I or, in part, Roger have offered.  At least in my case, it is a much more specifically American praise.  Far from being a vindication of universalism offered for the whole planet, arising on account of Obama’s planetary upbringing, etc. – I would instead argue that it is actually more evidence of American exceptionalism.  Where else in the world, at least of major global powers with long historical track records, would this happen?  This is not, on my view, evidence of the planetary influences, even if Barack Obama might think they are – citizen of the planet, etc – but instead of a particular sovereign democratic political system and its openness.

Two forms of praise for this election, but very different reasons offered for it.  I am hardly inclined to concede the political grounds for Obama’s election to some form of planetary universal cosmopolitanism, when it looks, on the contrary, so very, very American.

These two views are not necessarily and always incompatible.  But they often are and they can lead to wildly different expectations of what President Obama is supposed to be and supposed to do.

There’s more to say about this, obviously, but I gotta run.  Plus, it’s probably too early to tell.  I might write on this down the road, when there’s more of a track record on which to comment.

http://opiniojuris.org/2008/11/06/president-of-the-world-or-the-american-dream-made-in-america-and-really-only-in-america/

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