Yeah, I know I promised not to get into politics much on this site, but that’s a promise I’ve broken enough times now that I feel no one will be particularly surprised or disappointed. And as we all know, there are certain occasions which require us to break our usual set of rules and offer comment. And this is one occassion that I’m happy to talk about, even though it really didn’t come as that much of a surprise.
OBAMA HAS BEEN REELECTED!
That news is so positive that it deserves its own line and in all caps! And yes, all indications seemed to point to him winning a second term, but like many supporters, I was kind of holding my breath last night as the initial returns came in. It was a lucky thing that I had TKD class night, and that it was a sparring class. It was just the positive distraction I needed! And by the time I came home, I had heard that enough returns were in and that enough states were called that Obama could be declared the winner! It still took some time before all the votes were tabulated and it was also revealed that he carried the popular vote, but by then, the good news was complete!
And, as behooves me on this site, I can’t help but wonder (and speculate) how this will impact on our future. Needless to say, I am a lot more encouraged than I was a year ago, back when Obama was struggling to try and get a budget approved by a Congress that refused to even consider one unless be included steep austerity measures and made tax cuts permanent. It seemed that the GOP, which was fast becoming dominated by the Tea Party, had effectively been cornered by the same forces they helped create. It seemed entirely likely at this point that the government might actually fall, or at least it’s economy would collapse. Of course, disaster was averted, but not without consequences in the short term (the downgrading of America’s investment rating).
I seriously began to wonder at this point if a hard swing to the right was in our collective future. With Europe beginning to slip to the right thanks to their economy, immigration issues and the ongoing problems of climate change, all this news from south of the border began to trouble me. If both the EU and the US were to fall under the grips or right-wing parties, we would be seeing a political climate not unlike that of the 1930’s. Back then economic collapse had led to the rise of Fascism all over Europe, not just in Germany and Italy as is often maintained. And in this day and age, we could expect that to be followed by serious humanitarian crisis as the various states of the EU began deploying gunships to the Mediterranean to sink boats filled with refugees and began clamping down on ethnic minorities at home.
Unlike in the 1930’s, where the targets of discrimination and even wholesale murder were people of Jewish descent, followed by Roma, gays and lesbians and Slavs, this time around,t he likely targets were likely to be people from North Africa, the Middle East, and West Asia. Meanwhile, we could expect similar sentiments to take root in the US against people of Latino descent. We had already seen much of this take place during the Bush administration with the building of the border along the US-Mexico border and attempts to pass anti-illegal immigrant legislation. And in more recent years, it achieved a sort of breakout with the passage of SB 107 in Arizona – which made it perfectly legal for police to arrest any Latino resident who could not produce documentation of residence.
Initially, I was angry and nervous. It seemed to me that the GOP was intent on bringing the house down, that their commitment to make Obama fail that they did not care what happened to their country in the process. As long as it happened on his watch, they figured he would get the blame. But at the same time, I kind of pitied them as well. It was clear that they had unleashed a tidal wave that they couldn’t control, and were trapped in it as much as they were riding it. After the 2008 election, they had become the party of “libertarianism”, condemning big government, spending, taxes, and any and all legislation on the economy. Unfortunately, this put them at odds with just about everything they needed to support to help the economy recover.
Needless to say, things got better, and the election seemed to be cinched in advance by a number of factors. First, there was the fact that during the primaries, all the GOP candidates seemed hamstrung by all the extreme right-wing sentiments they were expected to endorse. one of these were likely to play well with all the moderates and undecideds. Second, there was Romney’s embarrassing gaffs as he traveled abroad and alienated everyone on his tour. He attempted to prove that he was a man who could handle foreign relations, but proved the exact opposite. Then there was Paul Ryan, a right-winger who proved to be at once too popular with his base and too extreme with the voters who sought the approval of. And finally, there was Hurricane Sandy, which made him look like a flip-flopper when it came the importance of such federal agencies as FEMA.
All the while, Obama was looking sturdy, even though he was being hampered by the terrorist attack in Benghazi, his initial performance in the debates, and the ongoing question of the economy. However, when the chips were down, he showed himself to be a man who could be counted on, and even won over such die-hards as New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. Between that and the fact that economy was beginning to recover on his watch, the election seemed in the bag.
And to quote Obama’s victory speech, “The best is yet to come.” I certainly hope so. It’s not just a question of recovery int he short run. There are a lot of things at stake here, not the least of which is the future of America and indeed the world. For the last thirty years now, there has been a struggle for the heart and soul of America, at the core of which seems to be the issue of decline. America, like it or not, is no longer in ascendance, and is faced with the myriad problem of global climate change which may exacerbate that problem very soon. If the nation and the world is to survive and come through as winners, then enlightened reform and stable leadership are what’s needed. The last thing that can be allowed to happen is a hard swing to the right, more austerity measures, and more of the same.
It has always been the reaction of empires and civilizations that have found themselves in decline to react with stringent conservative measures – more war, more sacrifice, more repression, more religious zeal – and that has only ever hastened the problem. That might sound a bit dramatic, but I’m a historian, so trust me when I say that I know what I’m talking about. And as Ronald Wright says, “Every time history repeats itself, the price goes up.” Despite the persistence of old boundaries, our world has become a global state, interconnected like never before in our history. We stand or fall together, and cannot afford to act selfish, regressionist, or that our needs super cede those of others.
So I say congratulations America on making the right choice. Enlightened reform won out against old world thinking and denial. Now let’s all get to work on making things happen and check the ideological obstructions at the door!