By Ardain Isma
Two weeks after his historical victory that swept him to the presidency over Republican rival John McCain, the world continues to celebrate. The junior senator from Illinois has accomplished something that many thought unthinkable just a year ago. For the first time in its 200 years history, a black man is poised to swear in as president of the United States, defying what seemed to be an insurmountable odd to land at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue—The White House—a building built by slaves some 200 years ago.
Winning on his own terms, both symbolically and strategically, Obama’s breadth and depth of his victory appeared to have redrawn the electoral map, capturing a series of bitterly contested states, from Indiana to Florida, long considered Republican bastions in presidential politics. States like Colorado and Virginia that many considered out of Democratic reach few months ago turned out to be nothing more than just a myth on election night. However, if Obama’s victory could be attributed to his ability to raise more than half a billion dollars during the course of his campaign, one cannot underestimate his shrewd vision in tackling and overcoming obstacles that a lot of observers and political historians will have to ponder for years to come.
Although the issue of race had surfaced during some crucial phases of the campaign, noticeably during the primary season in the fight-to-the-finish contest with Hillary, his victory is reflected more in the discipline and the accuracy of his campaign, rather than in the vexing question of race, much discussed in the media for more than 2 years.
Needless to say that race did not affect the vote of some voters who voted for Mc Cain. But one must acknowledge that minority votes alone could not have been sufficed to usher the Illinois senator to the top. A sizable Americans of European descent never considered Barack Obama as a black candidate as we in CSMS Magazine never stop reminding our readers. They voted him wholeheartedly. To them, Obama represents an inspiring figure, someone with worldwide endorsement and genuine admiration, who has the prestige to polish and ultimately lift America’s shattered image overseas.
But the main issue from the start was the economy. From Wall Street to Main Street, Obama’s earlier endorsements left little doubt that he was indeed a mainstream candidate, and managing the economy will be the basis by which success or failure of the Obama’s presidency will be measured. As grand as the symbolism was in the Obama’s victory, however, comes January, president-elect will have to start backing all his beautiful promising words with deeds, as Davis Plouffe, Obama’s campaign manager pointed out on election night.
Can Obama really deliver?
By the time the polls closed on election night, more than a billion people around the world had been waiting with intense interests. The sense of hope and fear was particularly acute. It looked as if the coming of the Messiah was at hands. Too many outside of the United States, the generated interest did not stem from what usually bestowed in the media with regard to the US president as the “leader of the free world.” It was because they knew too well from bitter experience that the American president, as leader of the world most powerful country, has the power to pursuit policies capable of wreaking havoc in their lives and for the universe as a whole.
For this reason, it is without question that the departing Administration in Washington is and will forever be viewed in both within and beyond the borders of the United States as the most despised in history. Bush will always be remembered for these infamous words like “financial meltdown,” “bailout,” “sub-prime mortgages,” “foreclosures,” “Abu Ghraib,” “rendition,” “preemption,” “water-boarding,” “Guantánamo,” “Katrina,” etc.
The longing for change in the country is obvious; it runs deep and widespread. With all leading economic indicators pointing to a bleak future at least in a short term, no one knows for sure when peace of mind will return for the average Americans. Massive layoffs with a combination of fast growing of poverty, home foreclosures mixed with a shameless concentration of wealth at the top echelon of society are the catalysts behind this unprecedented popular mood of anger, frustration and rage. Innocent taxpayers watch with mounting horror as arrogant corporate leaders going to Washington in their multimillion-dollar private jets, asking for billions to revamp their businesses.
According to the latest surveys, 1.2 million Americans lost their jobs this year, and this figure may not represent the overall picture if one considers thousands of small businesses that went under, swept away by the economic avalanche. But the high profile nominations coming from Transit, the name of Obama’s headquarters in Chicago, are being received with serious skepticism. They are far from being reassuring when one looks at the names and the faces being put forward. They could hardly represent the faces of change professed by Obama during the campaign. Overwhelmingly Clintonites and with Hillary Clinton now Madame Secretary-elect, there is a joke out there that the best credentials one can have in his résumé is to be able to show times of working for the Clinton Administration. So, where are the strategic differences Obama claimed to have had with Hillary during the campaign? Conciliatory moves are right for effective governance, but that may not be enough to rescue a country as complex as the United States from economic disaster. Strong leadership is required, and the biggest blunder Obama must avoid making is to project the perception of a president in training.
In an article in the New York Times yesterday, the paper questioned the nomination of Hillary and cautioned that it might undermine Obama’s ability to conduct foreign policy, although David Axelrod, Obama’s former campaign chief, tried to erase such concern when he went on ABC’s This Week with George Stephanopoulos. “President-elect is acutely aware of his role as Commander-in-Chief,” he said. Well, we just have to wait and see.
Obama must remember the election outcome was a massive repudiation of the old ways, of nearly three decades of right-wing domination of American politics. This year’s election was clearly a watershed reflected in the electoral map and the socio-economic and cultural shifts over the past quarter-century. More significantly, Obama’s victory was an outright rejection of the claim that the United States is a racist country. This has also refuted the notion that race transcends every strategic issue.
According to exit polls, the percentage of voters who stated that the issue of race exerted any influence on their vote was relatively small. The economy and the uncertainty of wars were the main factors. But I’m afraid they may be disappointed, for the very nature of the bourgeois democracy in which Barack will swear in to uphold on January 20th as the 44th president of the United States will not provide him the framework to govern according to the will of the people. Nonetheless, the coming of Obama as the top man of the country could not be sweeter. Ignoring this fact would be tantamount to the denial of sordid history of injustices carried out against people of color in this land for more than 500 years.
Also see Historic by all account: the US presidential election enters its final hours