IN THE course of arguing here on Tuesday that President Barack Obama offered a more enlightened, progressive future for his country, for ours and for the world – a view which, happily, coincided with that of the American people – we referenced the oft-quoted words of former New York governor Mario Cuomo that politicians campaigned in poetry but governed in prose.
Never was that aphorism more starkly illustrated than by the events which followed the Democrat candidate’s election victory over his Republican rival, Mitt Romney, in which Mr Obama secured a healthy majority of the seats in the Electoral College, which formally chooses the president, but his winning margin in terms of the popular vote was a narrow 2 per cent or so.
In his victory speech, Mr Obama was magisterial, using all of his considerable rhetorical skills to lift America’s sights after a bitter, acrimonious, campaign with a promise that the best was yet to come. It was an inspirational, uplifting speech matched by the gracious concession of defeat made by Mr Romney. Yet, the significance of both men’s statements was not in the oratory but in their identification of the problems facing the US.
Mr Obama told Americans they had “voted for action, not politics as usual”. He said he had been elected to look after the jobs of people, not politicians’ jobs. He promised to work with leaders of both parties to meet the challenges they can only solve together: reducing the deficit, reforming the tax system; fixing the immigration system; and freeing the country from “foreign oil”.
It is in this promise to reach out across the party divide, something echoed in Mr Romney’s speech, that the nub of the problem facing America is contained. Despite the epithet of being the most powerful man in the world, the truth is that America’s founding fathers, for good reasons, built in such constraining checks and balances into their system as to almost make the United States ungovernable.
Mr Obama’s priority is to find a way of preventing America falling off the “fiscal cliff”, the $600 billion package of tax rises and cuts that come into force on 1 January if a compromise cannot be agreed between the president, the Democrat-controlled Senate and the Republican-controlled House, which is making aggressive noises about its tax-cutting electoral mandate. It is in the world’s interest that compromise is found, for there are fears that if a deal is not done then the US could plunge back into recession, dragging the world with it.
But we hope Mr Obama will not concentrate exclusively on domestic concerns. The civil war in Syria, the instability of the Israeli/Palestinian face-off, the rise of China, even the crisis in the eurozone, these are all issues the second-term president can help resolve. We hope, therefore, for a conciliator at home and a leader on the world stage. The poetry has given way to the prose.
Creative Scotland creating rows
Creative Scotland is certainly living up to its name, though not in a way the denizens of Scotland’s arts quango would wish. They have
managed to create unprecedented levels of anger among Scotland’s artists over the handling of their grants process.
However, just when one might have thought it could not get any worse, it does, with a new storm created – what other word could we use? – over the Creative Scotland Awards 2012, which will be judged, it turns out, by an exclusively male panel. Fine men all of them may be, but they are, well, all men. And this from an organisation which “puts equality at the heart of its activity” and aims “to acknowledge and reflect the diversity in Scotland today in all our work”.
Furthermore, when applications for grants are made, the
organisation says it recognises questions on age; gender; ethnicity; disability; and sexual orientation, which are all defined “protected characteristics” in the Equality Act 2010.
The all-male panel has, rightly, created (sic) a huge rumpus among women artists, who
despair at the idea of having to campaign again for equality in the organisation. Others point out the irony in that Creative Scotland monitors the boards of organisations it funds to ensure proper gender representation.
What has got into Creative Scotland? It does not seem to be able to avoid controversy. Let us put it creatively. It is as if it has taken St Francis of Assisi’s words, once quoted by Margaret Thatcher, and inverted them. Where there was harmony (by and large), it has created discord. Where there was truth, it has
created error. Where there was faith, it has created doubt.