With the presidential election every bit the runaway that it was expected to be, there are a few things which are still undecided, but leaning in the opposite direction that I had hoped. First of all, Al Franken is currently losing by less than 600 votes in the Minnesota senate race. I have been a big fan of him for a long time. There will be an automatic recount since it was so close, and the results aren't expected until December at least.
Also, the ban on gay marriage in California is currently winning by about 2%. If California of all places is able to ban gay marriage, I don't see any reason to hold out hope that this form of institutionalized bigotry will be overcome any time soon.
But finally, now, on to the big winner.
As I mentioned in my last post, I don't see how any non-deity could live up to the expectations that people have for Barack Obama, but there are a few things which were direct campaign promises, and it is important that we hold him to them.
1. Health Care
The most important issue to me, a person suffering from a rare, incurable disease, is health care. The Clintons also had complete control of the government in 1994, and they couldn't get it done. I was never a big fan of Obama's plan, as it relies on the fundamentally flawed health insurance industry, but I'm willing to give him a chance in the hopes that his efforts will be a stepping stone to the universal care that we are desperate for. Any functioning health care system will have several distinct features. First, a person suffering from a debilitating disease should not be also suffering from debilitating debt. When I got sick, I had health insurance, and I still came out of it more than $10,000 in debt. And that is after spending almost half my monthly income on prescriptions. Second, preventative care is a necessity. When the only medical care that a large portion of the population receives consists of an emergency room visit when their condition finally becomes out of control, that is not a functioning health care system.
2. War in Iraq
Obama campaigned on the promise of ending the war. This will not be an easy task, as it is not only important for US troops to leave, but it is important that we leave Iraq stable and functioning. It's no good to leave if six months later, the government is overthrown by militias. A big part of what is needed, I think, is a concerted effort to rebuild Iraq's infrastructure and economy. If the Iraqi people are no longer suffering from poverty, desperation, and living with constant violence as part of their life every day, I think that people will be much less likely to turn to violence themselves.
I don't know the statistics, but Obama must be one of only a few senators to ever visit Africa, and certainly his ties to the continent are obvious. I expect him to address the tremendous suffering that is taking place on the continent, from genocide in Darfur to the AIDS epidemic.
I have long said that I think politicans can do little to affect the economy. Therefore, I don't expect him to be able to single-handedly bring us out of this recession. What I do expect, however, is an end to the dominance of the Ayn Rand philosophy of objectionism. Clearly, the idea that free markets can be trusted to regulate themselves is fundamentally flawed. Deregulation of the electricity industry led to widespread blackouts, but sure made a lot of money for Enron executives. Deregulation of the financial industry caused the biggest financial crisis since the great depression. These outcomes should have been avoided.
Ending our dependence on fossil fuels would be the largest infrastructure project in US history. There are a few things that need to be accomplished as part of this goal. First, as the vast majority of Americans depend on vehicles which burn gasoline. More efficient vehicles like hybrids may help, but they are hardly a solution. Second is power generation. I hope that Obama lives up to his promise of expanding nuclear power. This is a viable technology that has been proven to be safe and efficient. Environmentalists fear it because of the radioactive waste, but I would suggest that a small amount of radioactive material in a contained, controlled area is far better than pumping thousands of tons of CO2 (which contains just as much radioactive material, if not more so) directly into the atmosphere.
If Obama can accomplish these things, maybe my faith in American democracy will be restored. Otherwise, I pledge to vote for the Green from now on.