The Hyperbole Of Hope And The Inevitability Of Change

This was originally intended only to be published on my [other] blog, where I’m trying to get back into the rhythm of writing news columns, but then I figured “what the hell”. So feel free to let me know if 1. the words are in the right order; 2. the words are written in English; 3. the general focus is coherent.

President Elect Obama won the election, yet Senator McCain didn’t lose so much as he came in a very close second. The person electors wanted to punish was President Bush, and they have.

The almost-former President’s place in history has been set in stone with this election. There will be no redemption. His will forever be known as the “Idiot Presidency”. Everything he “accomplished” will be forever eclipsed by the absolutely historic election of an African-American president. The Bush legacy will be reduced to books written about the lies used to get into a second Iraq war, and the disgraceful response to Hurricane Katrina.

Ding dong the wicked witch is dead. But she had been on life support for four years and wasn’t expected to live much longer anyway, so taking credit for her death after sticking a sword in a her lifeless body, and dancing on her grave after her body had already been put into the ground might be justified by the amount of relief which needed to be released, but it’s hardly a victory.

President Obama is a remarkable person, with a remarkable personal narrative, and his election to the presidency is an incredible testament to the historical narrative of the United States. But his election owes almost as much to American dislike, even hatred, of a president who would have been gone in a few months no matter who was running.


The strategy of the campaign commercials run on American networks by the Democrats was to tie Mr. McCain and other Republican candidates to President Bush, the least respected President in a hundred years. But after raising US$600,000,000 and spending a record amount of money, after running against President Bush’s mostly inept eight-year record, President Obama’s margin of victory in the national “popular vote” was only five percent.

The political spectrum of the United States is still as divided the day after President Obama’s election as it was a few years ago, essentially there’s only been a six point swing from 2004. It’s the years of Left v. Right hyperbole and rhetoric that have been wiped away, not the problems or issues facing Americans.

President Obama cannot force people to buy cars and houses, so the auto sector will continue to collapse and the housing market will continue to find its bottom. Thousands of jobs will continue to be lost in every economic sector, and thousands more Americans will lose whatever tiny bits of health coverage they had left.

The American debt is over eleven trillion dollars. The ability to erase the deficit, let alone the debt, will be almost impossible during a recession. Which means both will inevitably rise, and the economy of the United States will get worse before it will get better.

The first contact Europe will have with President Obama will be when he tells Spain, Germany and Italy to commit troops to the front line in Afghanistan. But while those governments have already committed troops to Afghanistan, they also refuse to allow their troops leave their bases and engage in any combat roll.

During the election Mr. Obama repeatedly said he wants to renegotiate NAFTA, but Canada has no interest in doing so and the agreement cannot be opened without the participation of the other partners.

As American influence in Iraq wanes, Iran’s will rise. The American military has been abused for sixteen years, from being was cut apart during the Clinton Presidency to spending six consecutive years fighting two wars. Fixing the military during a war will be almost impossible, and every day the American military is in Iraq and/or Afghanistan only adds to the economic deficit.

I imagine there’ll be a great number of people who will be walking on air over the next few months, and maybe even years, but to fix what is actually wrong with the United States will require years, probably even decades to repair.

The “hope” Americans voted for lies in the cleanliness which comes with a new President, and only in the potential for something new. American politics is very much like its own unique brand of Evangelical Christianity in that every four to eight years all of the electorate’s sins are absolved, as long as they admit their guilt by voting in a new direction.

The “change” President Obama promised has come and gone with the election. The United States has fundamentally changed with his election. Now President Obama himself is the “hope”, not his policies. The problems his country faces are large, and will take time to fix, but they are ultimately ordinary. And because the problems are ordinary his solutions to the problems must be standard and ordinary.

The majority of people who voted for Barack Obama did so out of their intense belief in his ability. But he was elected as President based on the fears some had of a continuation of a Bush Presidency, the desire of others to punish a Bush Presidency, and by people who wanted to again feel hope for their country. It will be interesting to watch him work in the mundane spaces. And whether that ordinary work will continue to inspire those who voted for “hope” or against President Bush.




About Gabriel...

...diagnosed with manic depression when I was nineteen, for the next 14-years I lived without treatment or a recovery plan. I've been homeless, one time I graduated college, I've won awards for reporting on Internet privacy issues, and a weekly humour column. In 2002 I finally hit bottom and found help. It's now 2022, and I have an 8-year old son, and a 12-year old son... I’m usually about six feet tall, and I'm pretty sure I screwed up my book deal. I mostly blog at
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19 Responses to The Hyperbole Of Hope And The Inevitability Of Change

  1. thordora says:

    Hope is a powerful thing, and I’M hoping it forces people to change, not just their leadership. The people are just as much responsible as the leader.

    I look at my Dad, who remembers segregation, who says he really never thought he’d see a black president in his lifetime. I think of all the minority children who finally saw someone else OTHER than an old white man.

    I think this means something. Maybe not immediately, as there’s a HELL of a mess to clean up, and 4 years just isn’t long enough. But does inspiration have an expiration date?

    Or maybe I just forgot my full dose last night. 😛

  2. dame says:

    excellent piece, gabe. i’ve been doing a lot of election related reading this morning, and you touch on a critical point that’s seemingly been entirely neglected. the fear factor.
    and i ‘fear’ that americans, for the most part, don’t realize that fear and hope have become nearly synonymous in this dangerously confused society.
    kudos on some excellent work. you really should submit this for publication.

  3. Gabriel... says:

    Okay… I just submitted it as is to the largest daily in the region. Other than a few long letters to the editor in the local paper this is the first time I’ve submitted a piece to a paper of any size since I left full time reporting. weeee… hurl. If nothing happens I’ll submit it to the local weekly, either as a column or as another really long letter to the editor. Thanks to you both.

  4. bromac says:


  5. dame says:

    atta’ boy. it’s beyond a worthy piece.

    and if i may be so bold as to recommend an ‘american’ audience as well, please consider submitting to the Chicago Reader. It’s a highly respected publication that relies on freelancers as a rule. Their means of keeping it real, if ya will. And keep it real, they do. And i think they’d find your work(s) especially attractive. Just a thought, consideration, possibility.

  6. Clare says:

    G, love this piece but I have one point of contention with you characterization of the race as “close.”

    Popular Votes:

    OBAMA: 63,042,806…
    MCCAIN: 55,821,650…

    –A difference of 7,221,156 so far.

    The vote counts are still being finalized. And what matters most is the electoral votes:

    349 Obama
    163 McCain

    –a difference of 186 electoral votes!

    Missouri and N.Carolina are not yet called for either candidate.

    It was a drubbing of McCain-Palin, a landslide victory for Obama. Go Obama!

  7. Gabriel... says:

    The electoral votes were not close, but the margin of victory in the popular vote from Republican to Democrat was only 6-7% most of which can easily be explained by the numbers of people voting against the policies of President Bush, and against the divisive tone of American politics over the past eight years. Without a doubt Senator McCain lost, but the election was a drubbing of President Bush and his policies.

  8. Gabriel... says:

    Thanks again to the four of you.

    I didn’t get a call back yesterday so I’m going to edit it down to 600 words and submit it to the local paper.

    Freelancing columns is a tricky thing… if you submit a piece to Paper X, you have to make sure there’s an angle to the column which is relevant to the region Paper X covers. I wrote this piece to be relevant to me, not Paper X. I should have edited it to include more about what Obama’s election will mean for Canada-America relations. Or something.

    There’s also the fact daily newspapers already have a stable of staff and freelance writers who all get first shot at a topic. So that puts my little piece at an even greater disadvantage.

    And no one at a newspaper really enjoys sifting through the freelance submissions, so any little reason to kick one into the Burn File and they’ll do it. The newspaper I sent this thing to doesn’t even list the file options they want submissions to be written in… almost no one will accept a submission in an attachment, for example. This paper doesn’t even tell you what word length they like. Generally it’s 600 to 800 words.

    Plus, this is really a draft. It needed another edit.

  9. See, you needed to refer to him as Barack HUSSEIN Obama for the Citizen to pick it up.

  10. Gabriel... says:

    I haven’t read The Citizen* in a long, long time… has it really gone that far into parody? Have you noticed all of the original writers hired by the National Post are now at Maclean’s Magazine?

    I should have edited out all the “contextual” stuff about GWB regardless. Something I’ve learned from writing about politics online is, if you want to write something evenly mildly critical about one side, you have to say something at least as critical about the other in the same piece. At least if you want to keep your blog-buddies from flipping out. But real-world publications still, as always, demand strict partisanship. Basically it’s the difference between polite conversation and actively soliciting a response.

    Here’s a question… if I can refer to GWB by his initials, can I do the same for BHO without it being considered “political”?

    *Freelance Rule #1: know who you’re submitting the piece to… if you’re submitting an opinion piece, read their opinion section first. No matter what their PR departments tell you, newspapers and magazines all have editorial biases.

  11. To be honest, I only saw a few references to it in Frank, but one of their columnist referred to him as Barack Hussein Obama on occasion, which is sort of shorthand for “I’m a racist douchebag”.

    Which I believe also answers your second question.

    I was amused by Macleans choosing to run Babs Amiel’s articles about how put upon she and Tubby were. Tears flowed from my eyes when I read that.

    Not tears of SADNESS, but tears all the same. The biological processes are the same.

    Where did the myth of the objective journalist come from?

  12. Gabriel... says:

    I had no idea Frank was still around… I sent them a resume back in 1997. I haven’t heard back, but I’m still hopeful.

    I know the shorthand, but I don’t think that should mean the H. is totally off limits. He is going to have to say “Hussein” at the inauguration.

    I think putting it in all-caps or italics, or using it to emphasis a particular point obviously works as a lazy way of saying he’s “a secret Muslim”, but it’s also a really easy way for a reader to recognize the idiocy of the writer.

    But if I want to refer to him in a piece and, like I’ve done with GWB, I want to use shorthand I don’t see a problem with BHO rather than BO… but if I ever use bHo you have my permission to slap me.

    “Where did the myth of the objective journalist come from?”

    Movies, television and comic books. Clark Kent, Lou Grant and Robert Redford.

    Back in the 1970’s newspapers were still happy in their pro-biasness. But newspapers became easy targets for the talk radio hosts looking for enemies to get their listeners riled up enough to call in, then the “analysts” on CNN and later Fox News did the same thing.

    Instead of embracing their inner-bias the news organizations instead tried to prove themselves unbiased. Or at least their PR departments started putting out press releases claiming to have no bias. I think it’s starting to be just fine to admit bias again.

  13. Frank just went out of business last week. I shed a single tear for it.

  14. Gabriel... says:

    That’s too bad… I know how highly you value your tears. Frank had a place… probably still does. I think their high water mark was pointing out Rebecca Eckler’s continuing lack of ability.

  15. Sue says:

    Hi Gabe…just happened to stumble upon your site a few months ago, lurking occasionally. Just wanted to let you know your writing is good, and very interesting, and to just say “hi.”

  16. Jennifer says:

    Gabriel, your comments about current events in the USA are spot on. I love Canadians. It’s too bad I wasn’t born one :). I was born in the land of Oz (Kansas); therefore, I especially appreciate the analogy, “Ding dong the wicked witch is dead.”

  17. Gabriel... says:

    Hi and welcome Sue, lurkers are always welcome… especially ones who comment every once in a while.

    Hello Jennifer, thanks.
    If you ever want a change of scenery we’re always accepting applications for new candidates. Let me know and I can put in a good word.

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