So Barack Hussein Obama’s won a second term to the most powerful office in the world. To say it in a more appropriate fashion, Obama is victorious because there was no defeat in sight – the opponent was not significant enough – and not because he’s had a glorious first four years in office.
Flashback November 4, 2008. The US presidential election had given a thumping victory for Obama to become the 44th President of the country. Barely 50 days prior to that, the Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc, the fourth largest bank in the US, had filed for bankruptcy and the whodunit stories, suicides sparked by the market crash in Europe, the mayhem in the market and an overall bleak onset of 2009 was all one read in the newspapers or saw in news channels. India’s own Satyam scandal was still a month away and the economy was yet to begin feeling the pressures of dwindling export orders and global economic downturn.
Obama’s victory then was like a breath of fresh air, of hope and betterment. It looked like the world – particularly the Americans reeling under pressure such as joblessness brought on by the economic downturn – were finding it hard to decide whether to rejoice at the coming of an African American President or seeing off the fumbling, stumbling conservative George W. Bush II who had become the butt of more jokes across the world than Santa-Banta, owing to gaffes he was prone to.
There were many reasons why Obama won. ‘Politico.com’, the website focussed on US politics said, citing an Association Press and TV neworks’ exit polls:
• Barack Obama won the largest share of white support of any Democrat in a two-man race since 1976 amid a backdrop of economic anxiety unseen in at least a quarter-century.
• He was the first Democrat to also win a majority since Jimmy Carter with the near-unanimous backing of African Americans and the overwhelming support of youth as well as significant inroads with white men and strong support among Hispanics and educated voters.
• He won 43 per cent of white voters, four percentage points below Carter’s performance in 1976 and equal to what Bill Clinton won in the three-man race of 1996. Republican John McCain won 55 percent of the white vote.
• Fully 96 per cent of African American voters supported Obama and constituted 13 per cent of the electorate, a two percentage point rise in their national turnout. As in past years, African American women turned out at a higher rate than men.
• A stunning 54 per cent of young white voters supported Obama, compared with 44 per cent who went for John McCain, the senator from Arizona. In the three decades before then, no Democratic presidential nominee has won more than 45 per cent of young whites.
Given Barack Obama’s roots lay in the developing world – Obama’s father was a Kenyan – coupled with his great oratory skills, perhaps the greatest since Bill Clinton, made him seem globally like the boy-next-door who became the king one day. He won on his own terms, the victor who was also a visionary and strategist among the racially mixed Americans. In fact, audacity won. When addressing a 100,000-strong gathering in Chicago, Obama said after his victory that, “even as we celebrate tonight, we know that the challenges tomorrow will bring are the greatest of our lifetime: two wars, a planet in peril, the worst financial crisis in a century”, he seemed to be speaking for each and every fellow American.
The image of the ‘god of big things’ continued with Obama even after his win. His charisma, induction into his office of those with roots in far-off Asia and Africa, establishing himself a family man who was as much at ease in having an ice cream at a roadside shop along with his kids as he was in receiving the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo, Obama was fawned upon by the media and the masses alike.
Much has changed in year 2012. If 2008 was the tip of a world beginning to feel the impact of the economic slowdown, 2012 is the depth of the impact it is buried in. Obama has been re-elected in such trying times. Obama-looks, Obama-charm, Obama-feel-good-factor and Obama-economics do not have that draw they once had. He’s back. Big deal. Even the Americans are not enthused.
Here’s a foreboding and ominous bit from ‘not angry guy’ in the award-winning San Francisco-based ‘Uptown Almanac’s’ blog chain on ‘The Mission’s Muted Response to President Obama's Re-Elect’ --
“i remember when i was little and i thought i was going to be a lawyer with a bmw by the time I was 25.
im 26 now and i have neither.
i sometimes take a white table cloth from my closet and put it on my ikea table.
my cat and i eat spaghetti O's.” (Sic)
Such has been the muted, careful and fractured reactions from the media to Obama's re-election, ranging from varying accounts that are either ultra-conservative to liberal extreme. And the thrill of the win, well that’s been at best lacklustre, at least when seen through a global lens.
While ‘The New York Times’ website thought best to run with the headline, ‘Divided U.S. Gives Obama More Time’, the conservative ‘Drudge Report’ was more damning: ‘The Divided States of America’. ‘Drudge’ was more pointed in its post-victory reports, one plain speaking a contradiction: ‘Dollar Falls as Obama Win Paves Way for Monetary Easing’.
‘Financial CNBC’ seemed to be groaning ‘What Now?’ perhaps in response to the five-year old global financial beleaguering, while the ‘Christian Science Monitor’ wondered ‘Obama wins, but has anything changed?’ The ‘Washington Post’, a liberal newspaper in America, just stated the obvious with the banner headline ‘A Second Term ‘ even while delving into ‘The strategy that paved a winning path’, ‘Behind the scenes: Obama’s fierce will to win’ and ‘Obama gets decisive win by stringing together series of narrow victories’.
Conservative ‘Washington Times’ was surprisingly careful in not going all guns blazing for Obama. President Obama, it said, romped home to a second win primarily by “holding together enough of his hope-and-change coalition…surviving a sluggish economy and a fractured electorate that desired a change but failed to find…a credible alternative”.
Such a response has not been lost on the Indian media and it seemed to echo – in fact, doubly so – the sentiments of the Americans, with a very home twist. While ‘The Economic Times’ said ‘America Stays in Obamacare’ in a banner headline, the deck warned ‘But unhealthy for Indian IT’, a reference to Obama’s stand that discourages Indian BPO industry and, limits and crackdown on visas for Indian professionals. ‘Mint’ gave ‘Four More Years’ to Obama while pointing out that his re-election has overcome ‘doubts of a nation ravaged by a prolonged economic crisis’. ‘The Indian Express’ echoed a similar sentiment adding, ‘America chooses Hope over change; President rides on coalition of Blacks, Hispanics, women and youth’. ‘The Times of India’ headline was the same the ‘Drudge Report’s’, the only difference being the drop of the definite article. ToI also pointed, like its sister daily ET, that ‘IT might hurt’ and went on to say that Obama ‘... Faces Tough 2nd Innings’.
Elsewhere too, the Democrat’s re-election is being given a careful treatment. ‘Haaretz’, while squarely blaming the Republicans for not being honest about themselves, Romney or Israel, that ultimately saw them ousted in the presidential polls, points out that a ‘new term for Obama could mean a different take on Middle East peace’. Israel’s oldest newspaper says: “During a US President’s second term, he can take more chances than during his first. But the question is whether Obama will want to spend the next few years trying to justify the Nobel Peace Prize he received at the start of his tenure, and risk making a sad joke of himself, or prefer to focus his time on repairing the limping American economy? Will Obama’s aides advise him to start settling his account in the coming days, or will they warn the President that doing so risks having (Israeli Prime Minister Binjamin) Netanyahu recruit him for the right’s election propaganda, as yet more proof that the whole world is against us?”
Questions we all want answered. We await, Mr President.
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