Obama win a turning point in US politics

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 05 June, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 05 June, 2008, 12:00am

There has never before been an American presidential candidate like Barak Obama. Charismatic, black, multicultural, urbane and an orator, he has captured the imagination with his platform of change. But the test for Senator Obama is just beginning. The stage is now set for an epic clash between this unconventional Democratic Party candidate and Republican hopeful John McCain. The race for the White House will signal a new chapter for the United States and will be eagerly watched by the rest of the world.

The last presidential election showed how politically divided the country had become. The image of the US around the world has also suffered as a result of the invasion of Iraq. Much will be expected of the successor to George W. Bush. Senator Obama has certainly energised debate. To secure the nomination, the Illinois senator has had to beat the odds. A political novice to his main challenger, New York senator and former first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, he had to prove his worthiness to take on Senator McCain in half a year of state primary votes, 21 debates and hundreds of speeches. Rarely in party politics are candidacies so hard or closely fought.

The struggle, won by a whisker, prompted damaging words, embarrassing revelations and revealed flaws. Divisions have been created among Democrats; just how harmful the process has been will only be known at election time. At that time, too, will be revealed whether Senator Obama is truly the best Democratic choice. He has created history by becoming the first black presidential candidate to represent a major US political party, but that may yet be a handicap among conservative white voters, who would have more likely backed Senator Clinton. That she had a chance of becoming America's first woman president may also lose him the female voters who had backed her.

Senator Obama now has to make the case why he deserves the support of such people. His challenge is to bring Democrats together so that they can take on Republicans as a united force. This may involve a joint ticket with Senator Clinton - a move that would also entail burying the hatchet on the divisive issues that have been raised and making peace.

Senator McCain has dubbed Senator Obama's platform 'the wrong change'. The Republican, though, must prove that he, too, would represent a departure from the policies of Mr Bush and offer the US a fresh start.

Voters have learned a lot about what Senator Obama stands for and his views on a wide range of issues during the battle for the Democrat nomination. In coming months as he takes on Senator McCain, they will get to find out more so that they can make the best choice for president. It promises to be an intriguing contest.