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Obama and the Second American Revolution

JURIST Contributing Editor Ali Khan of Washburn University School of Law says that the election of Barack Obama as US president heralds a Second American Revolution that not only marks a rejection of the country's racist past but also has the potential to restore American dedication to justice, liberty and peace at home and abroad....


The world has reason to celebrate the Second American Revolution that began on November 4, 2008 when Barack Hussein Obama defeated John Sidney McCain in the US presidential election. Born in 1961, seven years after the Supreme Court's landmark decision on desegregation in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka (1954), Obama leads this revolution, which offers racial coexistence to replace memories of slavery, segregation, discrimination, prejudice, and bigotry.

Nations do not correct themselves easily. That America has turned on its own history and elected a man the likes of whom have been brutally lynched in our own lifetimes, speaks well for Americans, who overwhelmingly voted to erase a race-bound past.

The First American Revolution (1776) sought independence from the British Empire, and established a constitutional democracy. The Second American Revolution (2008) seeks independence from an ideology of prejudice, which has brought sorrow to millions of people at home and abroad. The Obama Presidency can turn the course of history if it acts upon the following principles:
  1. discard American Exceptionalism, a morally corrupt metaphysical theory of arrogance, invented to hide, defend, and perpetrate injustices at home and abroad. Let America be a nation among nations, equal and respectful, self-confident but not overpowering, righteous but not self-righteous.

  2. discard the "war on terror," a war that has pitted America against the Muslim world. Invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, attacks on Somali, Sudan, Syria, and Pakistan, threats against Iran, veiled hostility toward Saudi Arabia and other Muslim nations - all these and other policies must end. America must search for peace with the Muslim world, a world comprising of 57 states and more than a billion people. Peace will defeat terrorism.

  3. recognize social, economic, and cultural rights. The First American Revolution promised civil and political rights, including the right to free speech, religion, association, and the right to vote. Let the Second American Revolution promise the right to health care, education, cultural diversity, and a decent standard of living for all. The United States must ratify the International Covenant on Social, Economic, and Cultural Rights.

  4. recognize that America is a decent and humane nation. Its people have no cravings for aggression, extra-judicial killings, torture, secret prisons, military trials, and exporting "democracy" by means of bullets. Deploy American decency to construct a better nation, a better region, and a better world.
The old ruling elites will pressure Obama to reaffirm the dysfunctional ideology of national narcissism, cold-blooded economics, and an aggressive view of the world foolishly divided into Good and Evil. The Obama Presidency must resist the temptation to woo the forces that have been defeated in the general election and their ideology. Obama must not underestimate the promise of the Second American Revolution.


Ali Khan is professor of law at Washburn University School of Law in Topeka, Kansas, and the author of the book, A Theory of Universal Democracy (2003). Many of his publications are available here.


November 05, 2008


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