If Mr Obama fails...

Thursday, November 08, 2012

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THE economy, unemployment, the federal deficit, dissatisfaction with government, and health care are the top five issues facing the United States, according to Gall-Up polls, as President Barack Obama embarks on a second term as president.

If he can deal successfully with all or most of these issues, he will ensure his legacy; not merely as the historic first Black American president, but as one who left Americans better off than when he entered the White House.

We are under no illusion that he will have a difficult time ahead because, as Tuesday night's election results show, the United States are anything but united on many of the critical issues.

Admittedly, we're among those who heartily welcome Mr Obama's election in 2008, when he, as the transformational candidate, represented the hope of the times and the aspirations of all those who wished to see America lead us to a world of peace and prosperity, and put behind us the perception among the family of nations that the US was a bully whose dictates must not be questioned.

True, that he was dealt a heavy hand when he was forced to start out with the worst recession in recent memory, against the background of a country fighting two wars and racking up a multi-trillion dollar deficit.

And towards the end of his first four-year term, we saw signs that America was digging itself out of that deep hole in which they had found themselves in 2008. Jobs were coming slowly coming back, the auto industry was looking promising, the housing market began to bubble, the money saved from the Iraq war that Mr Obama ended was finding its way back into the economy, among several important indicators.

But many of the president's promises remained unfilled, losing him a significant chunk of the support that propelled him to the White House in 2008. In fact, the national vote in Tuesday's polls shows a severely divided electorate, even if he won a nice majority of the electoral college votes.

If Mr Obama is to make any headway, he will first have to bridge this steep divide which largely pits the majority, if dwindling, white population virtually against the growing ethnic minorities of Blacks, Latinos and Asians. This task is clearly not an easy one. The Republicans, who still control the House, demonstrated an unwillingness to compromise, especially in the last two years, thus compounding the problems caused by a weak economy.

Then there is the so-called "fiscal cliff" — a package of huge tax hikes and spending cuts —scheduled to take effect in the new year if the parties cannot come to a compromise. Ominously, on the stock market, the Dow Jones industrial average plummeted within minutes after the opening bell on news of the poll results.

But the president, unshackled by the need to look to an election four years time, and with a slightly increased Senate majority, has enough clout and political capital which he can leverage in the pursuit of national unity. He cannot fail. He must not fail!

For their part, the Republicans need to do some serious stocktaking. There is no point believing that their House majority means that they must have their way at all times. In addition, they have to re-look the complexion of their party, as it is clear that it is not attracting the minority groups which are growing in prominence and insisting on getting their place in the sun.

The Grand Old Party (GOP) is looking decidedly old and decidedly less grand.




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