The decision by Senator Barak Hussein Obama to consider challenging for the Democratic Party presidential nomination guarantees that the 2008 campaign would be vibrant with a likely high voter turnout due to the expected media hype.
Obama in many ways epitomizes not only the American dream (son of an immigrant parent who 'made it') but also what the US wishes to become - a plural classless society where a person is judged not by the colour of their skin, gender or sexual orientation, but rather by the content of their character. Therefore, Senator Obama is a promise for a better tomorrow.
The Obama illusion
American elections are notoriously harsh on candidates with negative campaigning leading to the close examination of every facet of a candidate's history and character. Statements and mistakes made years before a candidate even considered entering the political arena are ruthlessly explored (Obama experienced this when stories about his schooling in Indonesia emerged).
The average American voter often expects his/her candidate to be beyond reproach, making it very hard for individuals to run for public office. Therefore, at least one full term in the Senate would allow America to get to know Obama while also enabling Obama to get to know the American electorate, with all its quirkiness.
Sitting on such committees as Foreign Relations, Veteran's Affairs, and Health, Education, Labor and Pensions affords Obama with the stage to promote his ideas beyond the 30-second coverage provided by the mainstream media. Moreover, a term in the Senate enables Obama to formulate relationships with powerful groups in American politics that would support his candidacy - not to mention get a better grasp of the intricacies of domestic and international politics, which someone with seven-year experience at the Wisconsin Senate lacks. As things stand, Obama is still a novice in American politics.
Foreign relations and international politics are going to be central in 2008. Eight years ago, the American electorate was more concerned with domestic issues - the economy, immigration, health care, pensions and so on. Put simply, in 2000, Americans were weary of eight years of failed Clinton foreign policy in which the US made an embarrassing retreat from Somalia, fudged the crisis in Haiti, shamefully stood by - with the rest of the international community - as Hutu extremists butchered 800,000 Tutsis, and vacillated over the growing crisis in Eastern Europe.
Eight years later, no presidential candidate can ignore foreign relations. The United States and the rest of the world require the next occupant of the Oval Office to be well versed in the art of diplomacy and the intricacies of international relations. The challenges faced by the next president of the United States, range from the on-going war on terrorism to the HIV pandemic to the environment.
To effectively deal with these issues, the president would reject Washington's warning on the dangers of making alliances and adopt a multilateral approach to international affairs, as the era of American unilateralism is largely over. This demands a true appreciation for the complexity of the international system, which Senator Obama for the moment lacks.