Just like hurricane Sandy, the radius and the undercurrents of the 2012 U.S. elections are wider and far more devastating than that of the 2008 U.S. elections. The way the 2008 victory of Barack Obama had an impact on you, so will his loss.
Like Sandy, two models are coming together to create what is likely going to be a perfect storm of an election. The first model is the changing world and America’s place in it.
Obama’s presidency continued the George H. Bush short-lived desire for “a kinder and gentler America.” He advocated for a less aggressive America, an America that is hesitant to impose its will on the rest of the world. Coming at the time of great changes in the Middle East and Europe, many Americans misunderstand it as weakness. With economic growth in China, Brazil and India soaring and America buried in over 16-trillion dollar debt and entangled in two wars, some from the old brigade abhorred the image of America they saw. They want to return to the past and it starts with stopping the re-election Obama.
The second model is the one called the reawakening of the new silent majority. It is the most damaging of the two models and it feeds off the first.
In 2008, despite the hope that Obama’s campaign sparked, the fear that some voters, who were uncomfortable with a black president, might vote in a manner different from what they were telling the polls remained. This year, poll results reflect that once-imagined fear. The silent majority has woken up.
From an economic standpoint, the argument against Obama’s reelection is very simple. As Bill Clinton explained, the case against Obama is that he has failed to clean the mess George W. Bush and his Republican Party friends left behind, fast enough. And some Americans are willing to bring back the Republicans to make a bigger mess. In their impatience, these Americans will vote against their own personal interest. They ignore signs that the rosy projections by Mitt Romney are questionable.
Keen observers suspect that the elephant in America’s room- race, has stood up in the emboldened silent majority. After feeding fat on all the policy fights of the last four years, the elephant roams.
Race is a major undercurrent in American life and politics. Whereas the African-American community never really embraced Obama as the new Black hope, there is the feeling for many in the silent majority that Mitt Romney is the new White hope. Not just the new White hope but the last White hope.
A great discontent in America’s political life in the last four years is the idea that American values and ways of life are eroding. The preservation of American values’ rhetoric embodies a familiar insecurity: non-Whites are eating deep into white domination and are pushing whites into a minority position. And nothing reinforced that feeling like the election of Barack Obama.
For many, the way Obama tackled the challenges in fixing the economy and reforming social safety nets confirmed a changing America. They viewed his polices through that prism. His health care law is tagged socialism while his effort to ensure that women get their health needs, irrespective of the religious owned institution they work for, is derided as government overreach. For those who believe that this upsurge of big government must be stopped, Mitt Romney provides the only chance.
Romney has never been a perfect choice for this group of Americans. But they see him as the only vehicle they could use to dislodge Obama. As a Mormon, Romney cannot escape the suspicion surrounding the Mormon Church, especially from evangelicals. Some of these evangelicals even regard the Mormon Church as a cult. Though Romney’s political history involves moving from one end of the political spectrum to another, many Americans are willing to hang onto his wagon. They hope he will pursue a conservative agenda when he gets into power.
As an African living in America, I am worried about the feeling out there that Obama is being bullied out of power. It is a unique burden that successful African-Americans have faced over the years. African-Americans get their start by displaying great brilliance. Then they are projected into positions of power as a token. While in position, they are scrutinized in an extraordinary way. Every misstep is hyped and advertized as the proof that they are not different from their impoverished lot. Often performance related slacks that white people would have been given are denied to them.
As soon as the African-America is in position of any significance, a group of white-Americans begin a war to cut it short. They will sabotage and disparage. They will do anything to prove that he is not a success. This group fears that a success of one African-America will encourage others to seek a larger piece of the pie. We saw that when radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh wished from day one that Obama would fail. And the Republican Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell openly swore to do everything to make sure that Obama did not get a second term.
In a column in Time magazine called The Magical Negro Falls to Earth, Toure wrote that the Obama of 2008 that Americans voted for was a superhero. He stated that the last four years of governance has reduced Obama to a mere mortal. He argued that Americans had little or no difficulty voting for a superhuman in 2008. He suggested that the real test of progress in race relation will come next week when Americans are asked to vote for a mere African-American mortal.
If Americans vote for Obama, the mere mortal, it will send a message to African-Americans and other minorities in America that you do not have to be extraordinary to get the same chance that ordinary white folks get. But if Americans vote against Obama, it means that nothing has really changed for the ordinary African-Americans. For an African-American to be accepted, he or she needs to be twice as gifted as the white competitor.
A Romney administration will probably dismantle Obama’s signature healthcare law. Romney will slow down the tide of gay marriages. He will nominate enough Judges to the Supreme Court who will place greater restrictions on abortion or at worst ban it. Romney may do away with Affirmative Action, Workers bargaining rights and environmental restrictions on big oil and gas corporations. Under Romney, America will relax all manners of regulations that the business world do not like. On the international scene, Romney will act like a modern day Ronald Reagan. The Tea Party, right wing arm of the Republican Party, will try to get Romney to take America back to the 50s.
Whoever wins the election will deal with the United States’ financial cliff. He will strike an imperfect deal to reduce the deficit by adjusting the tax structure and increasing revenue. Political expediency will require the winner to implement a comprehensive immigration reform no matter what his core political base wants.
In many aspects, Obama’s loss will be a temporary halt in America’s march towards a ‘more perfect union.’ Like hurricane Sandy, it will be destructive, but it will surely come and pass. America will continue to make great strides because there are more people in America who follow Thomas Jefferson’s philosophical path -they “admire the dreams of the future more than the history of the past.”