So, Barack Obama has been elected president by a hefty margin. Liberals and Progressives are overjoyed and are vociferating as if (a mere eight years late) the New Millenium has indeed arrived.
I am sorry to rain on the party, but Obama is not going to introduce any fundamental change to the neo-liberal regime which has gotten us to where we are. Nor is he going to reverse the irreversible course of history, which is that all empires have to rise and fall.
A neo-con is simply a neo liberal gone punk. Domestically and diplomatically Obama will provide some emollients and better manners, but I doubt little else. He may take a few paltry steps towards realizing Bismarckian social benefits and he may go back to an Eisenhower-esque diplomacy of working "through" allies and international institutions. Otherwise the Flush Democrats are already "warning" us not to expect a new New Deal (i.e. a new faux social democracy) and the New York Times is peddling its usual demented ravings telling us it's time to leave off the "folly" of Iraq and focus on the "necessary" war in Afghanistan. No you dimits!!!! I am not Jove, I am Neputne!!!!!!
I admire Obama. He is likely the most intelligent president we've had since that racist bastard, Woodrow Wilson. Obama is engaging, informed and in control. I am glad most Americans showed that they could overcome their obsessive compulsive disorder over skin hue. But, to paraphrase Tolstoy, politics is something more than personality. Americans' disastrous propensity for exceptionalism has blinded them both to understanding the true nature of the country and to thinking that historical laws do not apply to us.
Like all leaders, Obama is constrained by his context and the material he has to work with. It may be that, far from being a creature of his time, he stands outside it at some Archimedean Point and understands that neither the actual nor the merely possible reflect the ideal. But assuming that to be the case, he is still constrained by the calculus of history. I fear his options are limited. I wish I were wrong.