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US presidential election is down to the wire!

CHRIS BURNS

Monday, October 29, 2012    

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Next week Tuesday, November 6, 2012, Americans will continue the process of voting for the next president of the United States. I say "continue" because early voting has been taking place for the past two weeks. As things now stand, the race is essentially tied. Many public opinion polls of registered and "likely" voters are pointing to a photo finish with some tilting in favour of a Romney win, at least of the popular vote. Mathematically, the "electoral college" map still favours Obama, but one never knows how so-called "undecided" voters will split at the last minute.

Romney definitely has the momentum going into the election. However, the question on many people's minds is what caused such a sudden and dramatic shift from President Obama and towards Governor Romney since mid-September. Remember, Romney did not get a convention bounce; Obama did. Obama had a clear lead among women - a reliable and key democratic cohort for the president. He was even doing surprisingly well among white men. Romney, on the other hand, was trailing the president up to the first debate and was solidifying what appeared to be his certain defeat.

Well, as they say, a day in politics is like an eternity, and sometimes the smoke is greater than the fire. We now know smoke inhalation is a dangerous thing. Hmm, without intending to be presumptuous, it appears that the smoke from the first debate has caused many to change their views about Romney. For, if one accepts the Latin phrase, Post hoc ergo propter hoc, which essentially means "After this, therefore because of this", then blame the debate.

In other words, because Obama's lead started to dwindle post-debate, one can blame it all on that one event - the debate - for being the cause. However, therein lies the logical fallacy, because while there could be an arguable correlation between the president's lacklustre performance in the debate and his current standings in the polls, no one knows for certain if his performance is really the cause. There are other things at play. It is hard to fathom that Obama's disappointing first debate performance really caused this sudden and extensive swing towards Romney, given the antecedents, which include Romney's penchant for rhetorical vacillation, clumsy utterances, lopsided policy prescriptions and weird "mannequinish" antics. The Obama campaign may very well have a point about the contagiousness of "Romnesia".

It is no secret that from as far back as mid-2009, this column has held the view, though unmaliciously, that President Obama could well be a one-term president and that his presidency was intended to be an important punctuation mark in American history. This column has never believed that the 2008 election of Mr Obama marked any permanent shift in race relations in America - sufficient to make the country a post-racial society. It is my considered view that race is also playing out in this election - it is so unfortunate - but it is the reality in which we live and must survive.

I dare say that some of the visceral comments and racially charged invectives from some quarters, particularly from the "birther movement" and people like former Governor John Sununu and real-estate mogul Donald Trump, are enough to confirm that there is a mighty long way for race relations to go before anyone can declare America to be "post-racial". Trump's recent stunt to pay US$5 million in exchange for Obama's college record is evidence of not only a churlish mind but of a weird state of being for such a person of prominence. And as if that was not disgraceful enough, John Sununu topped it off with rather distasteful, silly, and puerile remarks in reacting to Colin Powell's endorsement of President Obama. Say what you may of Obama, he is not perfect, but he has worked hard and has delivered on most of what he promised in the 2008 presidential campaign.

The 2008 election of Barack Obama, as I see it, presented an impatient desire on the part of a panic-stricken nation to put an end not only to George Bush's presidency; but also to his economic policies, foreign and domestic agendas and for the country to start afresh, having been bogged down by the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Individualism and the desire to restore personal wealth influenced many to vote for Obama; hence the vaunted enthusiasm and unrealistic expectations that ushered in his presidency.

President Obama inherited an economic tsunami, and despite the obdurate nature of the economic challenges that confront not only the United States' economy, all things considered, he has done well in steadying the ship. The unfortunate reality, however, is that many are too impatient for better days. Perhaps this is a function of Obama's 2008 "Hope and change" message. But as former president Bill Clinton remarked at the Democratic Convention in Denver, "No president would have been able to fix all the economic problems that Mr Obama inherited in just four years." Yet, as strikingly true as Clinton's summation is, Obama has not done a good job touting his record of achievement, and it may be playing against him now.

"Obamacare" and the "The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act" are two of the most far-reaching pieces of legislation in the US since the 1930s; still, hardly anyone is giving the president credit. These two pieces of legislation target women and children, but now polls are showing Romney erasing Obama's advantage among this group - this is a strange coincidence; unless women are voting more on pocketbook-economic issues rather than on social issues.Then again, both issues are almost inseparable, given the excessive cost of health care. Turnout will be critical in next week Tuesday's election. Therefore, I urge everyone of my readers who have family members living in the United States and who can pick up the phone to call Auntie Bettie and Uncle Little-chest and encourage them to vote for the candidate and party of their choice. Their votes could make a huge difference in the outcome of the election. Only 537 votes prevented Al Gore from winning the presidency in 2000. So, we do know that every vote counts, if we didn't before!.

Burnscg@aol.com

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