A change for the good, or is it?
I’ve never followed the US elections in my life. This was because I grew up with the notion that US was THE place on earth. That they had put in place a system whereby it did not matter who was the president, the system took care of itself. The post of a president was an honorary one. If anything went wrong, it’d automatically be taken care of. Companies always did well, at least most of the times, and corruption was a taboo. A perpetual land of opportunity.
A string of incidents over the last few years helped erase this utopian image that was the USA for me. First was the dotcom bust, which proved that greedy and foolish people existed there as well. Then came the 9/11 attacks. Within a span of few minutes a mighty super power had been made to look incredibly ill-prepared and stupid. What followed was an arrogant over-reaction.
And as if the Iraq war misadventure was not enough, some of the most trusted names in global finance showed that they created wealth only for a chosen few.
Then came the 2008 presidential elections. The campaign dragged along for close to two years, before coming to a close yesterday. Whether Obama won it, or McCain lost is a debate for posterity. But the most significant signal this victory of Obama has given is that the Americans now do not mind a bit of protectionism. Yes, the anti-outsourcing chants have been going along for many years now. But John Kerry too played the same cards four years back and lost, albeit by a thin margin. This time around, however, the decision has been loud and clear.
I believe it’s highly imaginative to say that the US is showing signs of turning socialist. It’s a country grounded in capitalism. Greed is just human nature. But what cannot be denied is that Americans are more concerned than ever about the state’s responsibility towards the welfare of the citizens. Healthcare for all is a case in point. A decade back, the American insurance companies would have been expected to take care of this huge demand. But they’ve failed. The ageing baby boomers have not helped the cause either. This has meant that state has been forced to look into a matter it would otherwise not be concerned about. The bailout package is another such example. Increasingly, Americans seem to be expecting the state to play a bigger role in their daily lives. How big this role becomes will be for all to see in the coming years.