So the majority of the politically conscious world breathes a collective sigh of relief- Obama won. Or Romney lost- which statement is more accurate? From outside the US, many people struggled to understand Romney’s appeal and how he could ever possibly beat Obama. But the power of the Republican states, the damage the faltering economy did to Obama’s reputation and the new voter registration laws made Democrats, and most of the world, sweat it out until late last night.
I dreamt Obama won twice last night, so when I woke up at 5am this morning, I was straight on my phone to check if my dreams had come true. The result was surprising. Obama won the electoral college vote in a far more comfortable fashion than many predicted. Yes, the popular vote is much closer, but that’s hardly surprising when you look at the political map and it’s blue & red contrast.
I do love nights like last night though. It’s not often that an event takes place that you know will make history, that will be remembered, talked about, analysed, taught. I have to admit to being a bit obsessed with America recently, maybe because of my new AS Unit on US History from 1945-2001, or my visit over the summer, but I’ve been watching documentaries, reading blogs and absorbing the opinions of Foreign correspondents on the news each night! History in the making excites me- the future Mr. Cave, nearing retirement can’t wait to say “I remember when…” at least once a week!
In analysing the result though, there appears to be more questions than answers. We’ve learnt that the Republican Party are in a real pickle. For Obama to win, with a track record such as his, and in economic times like these, is almost unprecedented. Carter & Bush Snr didn’t survive, only FDR can really lay claim to have done something similar. What does this tell us about the Republicans? That despite their safe states, they can’t appeal to a wider audience. That their in-house bickering and numerous gaffes have cost them dearly.
But what next? How can they rebuild? At least three states that were “red” are becoming less and less ‘safe’ for the Republicans as their demographics change. More blue “swinging states” and it could be a while until we see another Republican in the White House. Have they shed the shame of the “Dubya Bush” years? Can they present themselves to mainstream America as a viable option with “trickle-down” economic policies resembling that of Ronald Reagan? Will middle-class US citizens support them? Will African Americans ever see themselves as Republican again?
Secondly, can Obama really do things differently second time around? So many people wanted to believe he could bring real change, and politicians who have congratulated Obama have commented on the “new America” that he is bringing, but is it really possible? In his victory speech he talked about compromise, and the hard graft needed to change America and ensure its place in the world. But four years of Presidency has changed him, some argue it has overwhelmed him- can he really deliver? The Senate is still Democratic, but the House of Representatives remain in the hands of the Republicans, who blocked Obama’s every move since 2010. There has been talk of the need for more bipartisan politics, and communication between the two side of the spectrum, but will it really happen?
And finally- what difference will we actually see? There’s no real sense of optimism in this election victory, just relief amongst Democrats and bitterness amongst Republicans. After the billions of dollars spent on campaigning, the US has the same President and team, and the same Senate & House of Representatives, with the same potential gridlock in getting anything done. As mentioned in previous blog posts, Obama’s idea of a new America does involve cost & compromise- “Obamacare” is a clear demonstration of this- and the question remains as to whether the people of America are truly ready for this kind of change. In March 2011, a poll suggested that 56% of the population were against Obama’s medical reforms. His opponents call his reforms “socialist”, which in the country that has been a beacon of “anti-communism” for the last seventy years is a label you really don’t want. Don’t underestimate the challenges facing him. The debt crisis, the tax cuts that will be necessary but painful, even if they’re directed at millionaires.
The only answer we can give right now is the cliché that “time will tell”. Obama has talked about how the American people “voted for action, not politics”, and the importance of increasing the dialogue between the two sides, and about his renewed focus & determination. His victory this time around is to some extent, more impressive than last time- there’s no symbolism of the advancement of African Americans, and against a stronger, more consistent candidate he may well have lost. But how will we remember Obama by 2016, and in the years that follow? That piece of narrative still has many possible endings.