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Perspectives

November 7, 2008
Historic elections not “only in America”

Michelle Bachelet, the president of Chile.

Barack Obama’s historic election as the 44th president of the U.S. on Nov. 4 has received international attention from citizens and news media alike.

Here in the U.S., commentators have stated that his victory could happen “only in America.”

Obama himself stated in his 2004 address to the Democratic National Convention that “in no other country on earth is my story even possible.”

Greg Weeks is an associate professor of political science at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and blogs at Two Weeks Notice, where he takes issue with such a characterization of Barack Obama’s victory and details what he believes are progressive elections in Latin America.

“Only” in America?

As I’ve watched and listened to U.S. media commentary, especially after the election, something has nagged at me. This has indeed been an historic election, but in the United States we try to claim that we are the first to have historic elections. It can happen, we say, “only in America.” I don’t have links, but heard it from both Chris Matthews and Chris Wallace–if you google “obama only in america,” you can get a feel for how broad the sentiment is.

In Latin America, I think of Evo Morales’ impressively large victory in Bolivia in 2005, followed shortly by Michelle Bachelet’s in Chile (remember that the U.S. has not yet elected a woman, unlike many other countries). What of Alberto Fujimori’s 1990 election in Peru (will we see an Asian elected president of the United States?)? Or if we look at class, rather than race, there is no doubt that Lula’s election in Brazil changed history–imagine an uneducated union activist running for president here.

It is truly remarkable that our president-elect is African American, and it says a lot about the progress being made in this country. But let us savor it without pretending that we’re the only ones who have made such progress.

See the original post.

For more, read an article from The Economist about the phenomenon of American exceptionalism.

The views expressed by contributing bloggers do not reflect the views of Worldfocus or its partners.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user Fotograma! under a Creative Commons license.

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[…] Barack Obama’s historic election has received international attention from citizens and news media alike. In the US, commentators have said that his victory could happen “only in America.” Blogger Greg Weeks disagrees and explains what he believes are progressive elections in Latin America. Read. […]

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