Can Obama 'cross it'?


Tuesday, October 16, 2012    

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LET'S face it. In American politics there is never a dull moment. Not if the mass media is allowed to have its way. The 2012 presidential election fever (or is it anaemia?) is on and the partisan pendulum swings from the sublime to the ridiculous. Whatever happened to "a kinder, gentler society", the "compassionate conservative", "it's the economy, stupid", or the "audacity of hope"? No longer is the election of a president about issues; it's more about slinging mud, get out your tissues!

Thanks to the frenzied media competition which thrives on polls and opinion journalism, winning the election is all about body language, sound bytes, to be aggressive or not to be aggressive, who is better at twisting the truth and getting away with it, whose wife is more articulate and more attractive, mixed messages, food (yes, food), conservatism versus liberalism versus being moderate (trying to be all things to all men à la Mitt Romney) and I could go on.

Despite these seeming absurdities, at least American politics is not as deadly and irrationally tribal as ours (Jamaican). No reported acts of extreme violence, except for an isolated act of vandalism carried out against a Democrat campaign office, the virulent ranting and raving of Republican apologist and sometime talk-show host Rush Limbaugh, and random acts of anti-Obama sentiments laced with racial hate, it's business as usual.

Prior to the first national debate, most commentators observed that such an exercise would have very little impact on the polls in terms of voter preference. Well, after the Obama flop, the experts changed their tune as Republican candidate Mitt Romney got a significant bounce in the polls which saw him reinventing himself and being now in the driver's seat. President Barack Obama who is known for his eloquence - if not loquacity - for the most part held his head down while Romney laced into him with verbiage, which in many cases was replete with lies, half-truths and volte-face remarks which left the befuddled and bemused Democratic candidate wondering if that was the real Romney or a re-programmed clone.

The general consensus is that if Obama fails to outdo Romney in this second debate, then he may well pack his bags and go! But Obama is known to be a come-back kid, "a hard bud fi dead"!

One of the strange scenarios unfolding in the 2012 presidential race is the role of black voters. It is no secret that many black voters are Bible-thumping Christians who are not in favour of same-sex marriage. They are also among the most unemployed. Will they stay away from the polls on November 6 as a form of protest, or will they go out to ensure that the "great black hope" gets a second term? It is to be noted that here in Jamaica where homophobia is rampant, most Jamaicans still prefer an Obama presidency.

Because of Romney's initial battering, notwithstanding Vice President Joe Biden's tour-de-force (ha, ha, ha!) against his able opponent Republican Paul Ryan, Obama will be hard-pressed tonight to prove that he is no pushover and that he still has the audacity to get the job done in the White House. In the final analysis, those of us who are sympathetic to the Democratic Party are still convinced that not only the United States but the World needs a Barack Obama at this time. And no matter what the spin, it has to be said that the level of hostility and lack of cooperation shown by many of his detractors is rooted in downright racism.

After some four years in the White House, the dream may not have been realised, but the overarching vision that he and his wife Michelle espouse remains true and alive. As Dr Martin Luther King, Jr has opined: "As I stand here and look out upon the thousands of negro faces, and the thousands of white faces intermingled like the water of a river, I see only one face - the face of the future." Obama is the face of the future. He can and must "cross it".

Lloyd B Smith is a member of parliament and deputy speaker of the House of Representatives. The views expressed are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of the People's National Party or the Government of Jamaica.





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