The two candidates for the American presidency may not seem so different, but Americans must be mature enough to vote strategically and support the lesser evil
What the presidential candidate Barack Obama saw during his campaign was a very anxious America, an America that needed to feel good about herself again, and if religion represents hope in tough times, then Obama was hope’s prophet – his sermons serenading with potent hopium for the masses.
There is a lot to admire about President Obama. His campaigning will be the benchmark of political strategy for years to come; his ground operations, his eloquent speeches, his story – the son of a white mother on food stamps and a black father from Kenya. Rising up to be the most powerful man in America is the kind of narrative that feeds the myth of the American dream. The symbol of him being elected the first African American president given the terrible history of racism of the United States all understandably contribute to the awe that his journey inspires.
Brand Obama was created and it was no surprise that Obama won Advertising Age’s “Marketer of the Year 2008”, the most deserving of all his accolades, because it was brand Obama that won an election and won him a Nobel Peace Prize. Obama’s presidency in a sense seemed destined to fail the day he began governing because most people still remembered the drunken joy from the poesy of his campaign rhetoric and don’t want to recognise that governing is about compromising, yet terse prose.
Obama says he is quoting Joe Biden when he says, “Don’t compare me to the ideal, compare me to the alternative”. I think there are two very important elements here. One is the issue of expectation – of what can actually be done – and the second issue is, is the opposition any different? The answer to these questions by those who won’t vote Obama is that they were let down and there is no real difference between him and the opposition.
Nonetheless, gauging the feeling of disappointment, Obama tried early on to make it clear that as bad as people think he is, the opposition is and will be far, far worse. For a significant block of independent voters as well as liberals this remains the question. Is Obama an insignificant change to Bush? The argument here is that the drone attacks, the increased authority of the executive branch, and the further erosion of civil liberties renders Obama the palatable face of empire, which is at best a diet version of the Bush coke. This is the essence of the argument of those who have decided that voting Obama wouldn’t really make a difference.
While the drones and terrible record on civil liberties are unforgivable, there is no way you can conclude that this therefore means that Romney and Obama are the same. Very few critics have been as vocal and as relentless in their attacks against Obama as Cornell West. He has consistently called Obama a disaster and a massive disappointment but when asked about Romney, he responded that Romney would be a catastrophe. There are substantial repercussions on people’s lives if their votes can determine a disaster or a catastrophe. This is Professor Cornell’s reason for voting for Obama:
“I’m strategic… American politics are not a matter of voting your moral conscience – if I voted my moral conscience it would probably be for Jill Stein. But it’s strategic in terms of the actual possibilities and real options available for poor and working people.”
There is a clear difference between the candidates. One candidate is backed by 80 per cent of Wall Street – equivalent to two-thirds of America’s billionaires. One candidate’s foreign policy advisors were the architects of the Iraq war and are vocally calling for the re-introduction of enhanced interrogation or torture (banned under Obama) and are also calling for an imminent strike on Iran. One candidate wants to overhaul the safety net of Medicare and Medicaid and the affordable Healthcare Act. One candidate wants to slash five trillion dollars in people’s programs that help the poor in the guise of balancing the budget, but at the same time wants to cut taxes for millionaires and billionaires. The other candidate, President Obama, in most instances, wants to do the opposite.
The choice is real.
Often as a minority group we suffer impatience and frustration, and then channel this in ways that go against our interests. Change will not come straight away and be immediately transformative, but it can come incrementally and gradually, provided we put in the legwork. Whether it is in Britain or America, we have tremendous educational and financial resources, growing numbers and a renewed political awareness. We need to build institutions, organise, participate in politics locally, lobby, create strategic alliances, and grow organically as a viable and powerful political block. We must be mature enough to say that we will vote for the candidate who goes against 70 per cent of our interests, in contrast to one who will go against 90 per cent, and then work to improve the political landscape on the ground for the next election.
Image from: http://resources2.news.com.au/images/2012/11/06/1226511/740482-topshots-us-vote-2012-democratic-campaign-obama.jpg
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