I’m happy about the outcome, but not necessarily ecstatic. In case you’re interested, here’s a couple of reasons: the first one very obvious, the other two chosen at random and in no particular order.
1. I live in Canada, and I’m not an American citizen, either. That does not mean that this election does not matter to me or to my fellow Canadians. It certainly does, as anyone who has checked their pension plan statement recently should understand. Besides, having grown up in the then-socialist Poland in the 1970s and 80s, I was not looking forward to living next door to a large totalitarian state once again, and that’s what I expect the McCain-Palin Unites States would have been. For these and many more reasons, I’m glad that Obama won. But I do not share the intense sense of national pride that I see many Americans experiencing right now. Because, well, it’s not my nation. For the record, Canadian politics is much less exciting. Our national election came and went mostly unnoticed several weeks ago.
2. Larry Summers. He is one of Obama’s top economic advisers and possibly a candidate for the Secretary of Treasury. His name is also well known, and not in a good way, to pretty much every female mathematician. Several years ago, his comments about women being genetically less predisposed to do higher mathematics cost him his job as the president of Harvard.
Now, presumably, Summers will be advising Obama on the economy, not on women in science. (The two topics are not always unrelated, but never mind.) There’s more to the story, though. According to the reports published at the time, Summers’s comments about women were the last straw breaking the camel’s back, but that could have only happened because said camel was already struggling under the weight of many other things. Specifically, Summers did not get along with the faculty.
I absolutely believe that these reports are correct. I wasn’t at Harvard at the time and have no first-hand knowledge of the situation, but this is what I do know: academic administrators support each other. There’s no way that an administrator would lose his job just for dissing a minority group with no significant political standing on campus. (The mathematics department at Harvard has no tenured female professors, according to its web page, and had none at the time of the incident if I remember correctly.) Instead, the administrator might be asked to apologize for his comments; if his apology goes along the lines of “I’m sorry, I didn’t know that you were so sensitive”, then that will have to do. The aggrieved group might then be instructed that we all have to work together and we will all get there faster if we forget our grievances and unite for the common purpose. And, if some of us “get there” long before others, well, that’s life. But I digress.
What I’m getting at is that for this to have happened, Summers must have been a complete disaster as the Harvard president. If he’s getting a senior position in the Obama government, in a capacity where he will be managing the people in charge of the U.S. economy, then that doesn’t look good for those pension plans I mentioned earlier.
For those who have not followed this part of the campaign very closely, here’s the story. Several weeks ago, John McCain took serious flak for this incident.
The point of contention was that the expression “a decent family man” is not exactly the opposite of “Muslim”.
I’m guessing that McCain was just trying to tame supporters who were getting out of control; he may have been somewhat clumsy in doing so, but so are we all from time to time. All the same, given the many ways that emotions can run (and have run) in crowds hostile to visible minorities, I’m glad that several people came out to say on TV networks that it’s quite possible for a Muslim to be a decent person. Or, as Colin Powell pointed out so memorably, that it’s quite possible for a Muslim to become a U.S. soldier and die in the service of his country.
But what was less publicized is that much earlier, back when the Democratic primaries were in full swing, Obama had an official campaign web page set up (the one I linked to above) that listed “Obama is a Muslim” as a “smear” and then explained that he’s Christian. “Debunking Muslim smear” is the exact language it used. That page was up there right until Election Day.
Well, I’m happy to see it gone.
That’s about all I wanted to say about politics for the time being.