None of us were really going to be happy Tuesday night. We were only going to be somewhere between horrified and relieved.

What I mean is, most young Canadians I spoke to about the U.S. election expressed the same thing. A win for Mitt Romney would be a win for ignorance and evil. A win for Barack Obama, on the other hand, could save us, and the world, from the doom cooking down south. It wasn’t a terribly nuanced outlook, but it gave us something to talk about.

But now that our man in Washington has earned another four years, there’s something we need to bear in mind.

Obama’s re-election does not absolve us of responsibility for being good global citizens.

We’ve fallen prey to this kind of thinking in the past. We’ve been very eager to lend our support to another country’s president.

But an article published early Tuesday in the National Post argued that a win for Obama would likely mean increased need for Canadian military spending, a migration of our good doctors to the U.S. and more ‘Buy American’ protectionist measures that could hurt the Canadian economy.

We might tell ourselves that we’re thinking more globally, more altruistically. Although they may prove to be problems for the Canadian government, those same Obama policies could mean less foreign occupation by U.S. forces, as well as better access to healthcare and better jobs for Americans.

That’s all well and good. But it’s still remarkable that Canada’s honeymoon phase with the charismatic president has lasted so long.

I don’t mean to discount the global influence of a U.S. president, the good work Obama has done or the fact that, whether you’re a fan of the Democrats or Republicans, your preferred U.S. presidential candidate stands at least a few steps to the right of any major Canadian political party. But over the next four years, some of us will need to check our unconditional support for Barack Obama.

As of Wednesday evening, all indications were that it was a U.S. drone strike targeting al-Qaeda militants that occurred in Yemen earlier in the day. More reports of Obama’s foreign policy activities – favourable or otherwise – will define Obama’s presidency as it moves toward and through its second term. Be it with Afghanistan, Iran, Israel, China or someone else, there will be controversy.

We like to feel that someone’s doing the world’s good work for us. We like trusting someone as powerful and inspiring as Obama. We like to feel free of the futility in our Canadian parliament, which includes multiple major parties but a level of party discipline that’s unseen anywhere else in the developed world.

But if Mitt Romney was able to prove anything in his campaign, it was that we need to mix hope with realism as we look to U.S. leadership. We can do that without vilifying our favourite leader of the free world.


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