“In bad times, man is forced to see good even bad things”
(Prince Yahya bin Ali Al-Ahsa’i)
Tomorrow American voters decide who will reside in the White House, and whom they trust to decide the fate of billions of people during the next four years.
To many, both inside and outside America, the electoral battle tomorrow does not deserve to be taken as seriously in the way it is taken by politicians and the money world, since President Barack Obama’s failure to achieve the “change” he promised during his 2008 campaign, has highlighted two issues:
The First, is that Obama has failed to achieve what he desired to achieve, making his popular promises empty titillations which he was either unable or unready to fulfil.
The Second, is that the American voter is unaware of the huge political influence wielded by interest blocs, especially the financial institutions, industries (particularly, the defence and oil industries) and conservative religious; thus, their ability to mobilize their “lobbies,” blackmail candidates or grease up their electoral machines, and destroy those who stand in their way. With this in mind, there was a good deal of naïveté among who those believed the promises of “change.”
In the first case, Barack Obama deserves to be blamed for either his inability to make promises he always knew he could not fulfil. Hence it would be fair that he should lose a lot of support after his massive and historical victory in 2008. In this instance, it is worth noting that four years ago Obama won the electoral votes of states, like Virginia, North Carolina and Indiana, an achievement no Democrat presidential candidate dared to dream of since the sixties.
As for the second case, the culprit is the American voter who does not realise how flawed his/ her democracy is; a democracy whereby the certain interest groups enjoy huge powers that allow them to influence politics through the potent weapons of money and media. This, in addition to the fact that many voters do not hold politicians accountable for what they say or promise. In fact, they sometimes desire one thing and its opposite, or seeks results without thinking of background contexts, barely linking the cause and effect.
A weak memory has been a central element to American politics. One example may be how the voters forgot George Bush Sr.’s success in the liberation of Kuwait within a few months after his popularity had reached unprecedented heights. It is possible that may have defeated Bill Clinton had the period separating the Kuwait victory in early 1991 and Bush’s defeat in November 1992. As we now know a combination of a bad economic climate and faint memories of Kuwait put a downer on Bush’s re-election chances.
Today, while everybody is talking about the deficit, the voters forget that the deficit almost always spiked under Republican administrations, notably during the Ronald Reagan presidency, compared to Democratic administrations.
Why this forgetfulness? It is simply because the average American voter does not care about the root cause but only about the immediate outcome. Thus it has always been easy for Republican candidates to “bribe” voters with lower taxes and federal spending cuts … without telling the whole truth about the eventual high costs of policies of deregulation and “Reaganomics.”
This is exactly what happened since 2007 when the acute financial and economic crisis forced even the staunchly right-wing George Bush Jr.’s administration, and later the Obama administration, to intervene and bail out financial and industrial giants in order to save Wall Street from collapse.
The American political culture which believes in an unchecked free market, finds difficulty in admitting the inherent defects in free-for-all greedy capitalism. Republican politicians, like Wall Street, would rather think short term than adopt proper strategic thinking. They run away from the strong relationship between high costs in rich countries like the U.S. and their dwindling competitiveness in global markets. This is a fact both Republicans and their Wall Street supporters do not want to admit, which is why low taxes and smaller government continue to be the main thrust of Mitt Romney’s campaign. It is the same old economic philosophy promoted by Reagan, Bush Sr. and Bush Jr. before Romney.
These days America cannot afford to re-try what was tried before. It is neither in America’s interests nor the world’s to have another U.S. president who is merely a “political façade” while real power resides hidden elsewhere, exempt of accountability. Neither Ronald Reagan nor Bush Sr. or Jr. during their White House years were the “Real rulers “of America. This time around the same would apply to Romney if he wins tomorrow. The “real and effective ruler” will be the unseen blocs currently in an alliance with an extremist right-wing, backwards and dangerous phenomenon called the “Tea Party.”
Romney, who is actually a moderate politician, will be a tool in the hands of the extreme right if he wins. Paul Ryan, his running mate for vice president, is one manifestation. When the party of Abraham Lincoln and Franklin Roosevelt turned into an extreme-right entity, Republicans realized the need for a balanced ticket that introduces two ideologically different candidates, one moderate and another extremist. The moderate will reassure the liberals while the extremist will cater to conservative interest groups. They have been following this policy ever since; and this explains the combination of moderate Romney and extremist Ryan, which brings back the formula of extremist Ronald Reagan and moderate George Bush Sr., then Bush Sr. with his extremist running mate Dan Quayle, and more recently the “know nothing” George Bush Jr. and tough guy Dick Cheney.
Tomorrow, Americans will choose while the rest of the world, which will be affected by this choice, will have no say.
Yet, despite the disillusionment resulting from the very little change Obama managed to create, the U.S. definitely is now in a better place than it had been four years ago especially on the economic front, Obama’s attitude towards average American citizens is definitely much better than that of Romney, and his party is undoubtedly less hostile than that of his rival.
For these reasons, I hope Americans give Obama one more term in office even if they are not sure he really deserves it.
(The writer is a columnist at the London-based Asharq al-Awsat, where this article was published on Nov. 5, 2012)