Don't forget the home front, Barack
Thursday, 24 July 2008

Obama's tour of Europe will consolidate his overseas support. But the real battle for power will be won in small-town America

Jean Hannah Edelstei

It feels a bit like waiting for Santa Claus: the collective excitement over the anticipation that the great man will be making a personal appearance here in Europe, albeit one that is fleeting.
It has taken me a while to wholeheartedly commit my support to Barack Obama, due to the inveterate cynicism towards my home country that has grown during my near-decade of living as an expat. The belief that things are really going to get better has been hard to embrace.
But in the last few weeks – although I am yet to buy the T-shirt – I too, have been truly reeled in by the audacity of Obama's hope. In particular, I have really begun to believe not only in the possibility that he will sort out the US, but also in the prospect of the impact that President Obama could have on a global scale.
But while I recognise that it may be a good thing that Obama is demonstrating that Americans should venture beyond their borders, I am not certain that now is the right time for his tour.
In fact, Obama's impending journey to this part of the world – with his tenancy in the White House still very hypothetical – feels a bit like a premature tour of victory. While there is something to be said for the power of behaving like you already have the job that you want, it this case it could be a little presumptuous.
It has been clear for some time that the real battleground in the presidential elections is going to be in the towns populated by white, working-class men who are not won over by Obama.
His plan to make speeches in the vicinity of European landmarks will be welcomed by his supporters. However, many of the floating voters and those who do not support him will regard a tour of Europe as a demonstration of just how distant and foreign the democratic candidate is to them.
It would be a shame if, come November, it turned out that the time and effort dedicated to this European tour would have been better spent in the small towns of middle America who aren't interested in Obama's popularity in London or Berlin.
Generally, I recommend international travel wholeheartedly to Americans. I can't help but wonder if it would be better if, for the time being, Obama had stayed at home.

Jean Hannah Edelstein is an American-born, Canadian-educated, London-based freelance journalist

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