The election of Barack Obama to a second term has huge implications. First let me compliment CNN on its magnificent coverage. To be able to claim Ohio and Florida long before the final results came in was incredible and it reminded me of a by-election in my old riding caused by my resignation in order to accept a position in radio. I was helping to cover this election and just before we went to air, I called the campaign manager for my putative replacement and I was told that they only had one poll result and it showed our guy ahead by a mere handful of votes, I asked where they were from and he laughed as he told me knowing that if our guy was even close there, the election was in the bag. When I told the host he went white – «for God’s sake don’t say that off the top – we have to stretch this thing out for an hour!»
Mitt Romney oughtn’t really to have had a good shot but the first debate vaulted him from being cannon fodder to a real candidate. The next two debates were Obama’s but the damage had been done – Romney could out talk the articulate president and this gave him and his supporters a tremendous boost. In the first debate Obama looked terrible – to put the best face in it – it made me wonder how he let Romney get away with the statement that he, Romney, had got a Healthcare plan done in Massachusetts with a legislature of 87% Democrats.
Obama’s obvious answer was «perhaps so, Governor, but you were dealing with Democrats who are reasonable people, while in my relations with Congress I had to deal with the Republicans, including the Tea Party, which are obstructionist by nature». Obama let Romney get away with this right to the end.
As it turned out, paradoxically, the virtual tie in the popular vote forces both Obama and Congress to get along a bit better. These four years to come will be the president’s last in politics and he is a proud man who wants to leave a good legacy.
The Congress, especially the House of Representatives, which is Republican controlled. Know this and also know that the public will look pretty dimly at a Congress that resists popular initiatives. In two years’ time the entire House and 1/3 of the Senate will be up for re-election and don’t want a president with nothing to lose any more partisan than he needs to be.
Moreover, some of the sting has been removed from the Republican tail now that the far right wing Tea Party has been marginalized in the sense that moderation will be the by-word. The process of moving towards the center started as Governor Romney made his own move in answer to the far right’s pronouncements on abortion, same sex marriages and on social issues generally.
This brings up an important issue. Unlike parliamentary systems, the loser in the US election is no longer the leader of the party. This means that such leadership as there is will come from the Speaker Tem of the Senate, the Vice President who only votes to break a tie, Speaker of the House and senior members of Congress. As time passes and politicians with an eye on the 2016 presidential election start hosting trial balloons, Republicans will, depending on the circumstances, will deem it appropriate to go gently with the president or dump all over him. In short, the Republican opposition will be uneven to say the least. The president, nifty on his feet when he wants to be, and with an eye on his legacy, will have a better time with this Congress than he did in the past four years. The bottom line is that 535 and 33 senators will begin electioneering for the 2014 mid-term elections right now. The president has no political concerns. In the strange world of US politics, the race is on for the next presidential election. The last noisemaker on New Years` Eve will scarcely disappear before candidates will be testing the waters for 2016.
The Democratic nomination for 2016 is wide open as well. If Hillary Clinton were 5 years younger she would be odds on favourite but she will be 69 in 2014 not old by this octogenarians standards but remember, all candidates for president are looked on as winning 8 years and that does get up there on the Churchill, Gladstone and Reagan plateau’s.
Out of this election came an immense development – a man of colour won twice. If he had lost, Mr. Obama would have been a one trick pony and his 2008 victory looked upon as an aberration, a fluke. He was a novelty and after all, a fencepost with hair could have beaten a Republican coming out of 8 years of George W. Bush. This does a great injustice to Mr. Obama but, like most of life, appearance trumps fact and myths are quickly created and tough to debunk.
Why is this so important? Because US demographics are changing so that now almost 30 out of 100 Americans are non-white. With the exception of Florida Cuban Americans, all will solidly support a Democrat of colour… The fastest growing non-white American is Latino who tend to get into politics at all levels. In fact you can safely say that there will me minority men and women in Obamas next cabinet and the odds are short that a Latino – likely a Latino woman will be on one or both tickets in 2014.
Indeed the popular vote was a virtual tie which will mean, as I said, both Congress and the Presidency must find some common ground on a frequent basis. If they don’t, the country will be the worse for it. What does the re-election of the president mean for the rest of us? Foreign policy will stay the same although I doubt that Mrs. Clinton wants much more.
Many thought that the change in foreign policy should be to Mr. Romney but I stoutly disagree. During the campaign he showed a remarkable naiveté about offshore issues. Moreover, when he chided Obama about the cuts to the military he was irresponsible and did so because he knows that every state in the union has employment based upon defence. When he got caught out with his remark that there are fewer ships in the USN Navy he displayed either an abysmal ignorance or a deliberate gamble that Obama wouldn’t catch him out – which he did.
What about Canada? We usually get along better with Democrats and the media reports unanimously cheered the win. A win that should have been easy, was bungled by the president who recovered his balance. My tummy was right after all.