Americans certainly weren’t alone in their eagerness to see George Bush pack his bags for Texas. Bush got a farewell lashing in editorial sections around the globe this week, while President Obama was welcomed by adoring front-page headlines. The cover of London’s The Daily Telegraph even offered a “Free Barack Obama DVD.”
As Hendrik Hertzberg speculates, Obama owes some of his soaring popularity among Americans—a recent poll puts his approval rating at eighty-two percent—to their equally robust distaste for Bush. The same could safely be assumed about worldwide esteem for Obama, but as Gary Younge points out in The Nation, global excitement about the recent election goes much deeper, particularly when you consider race.
“For most of the last century,” Younge writes, “progressives and the oppressed around the world have looked to black America as a beacon—the redemptive force that stood in permanent dissidence against racism at home and imperialism abroad.” Younge explains that African-American artists and sports stars have long been inspirational icons for “oppressed minorities” around the world. Lately, however, “black America's most globally prominent faces were singing and rapping about getting rich.” Obama’s election ushered in a new era of possibility, and represented to the world, just as it did to Americans, real triumph over oppression. It also signals an important racial shift, according to Younge:
The rest of the world must become comfortable with a black American, not as a symbol of protest but of power. And not of any power but a superpower, albeit a broken and declining one. A black man with more power than they. How that will translate into the different political cultures around the globe, whom it will inspire, how it will inspire them and what difference that inspiration will make will vary.
The world is watching as Obama gets down to work, and not just for inspiration—they’re also expecting results. The New Stateman devoted much of a recent issue to analyzing what the world wants from Obama and how likely he is to deliver. Don’t worry, Mr. President, you “only [have] to rescue the global economy, solve the crisis in the Middle East and fix the environment.”