The US election

In Opinion on October 20, 2012 at 9:34 PM

Who should be president…

In a word, Obama. The economic question is an extremely complicated one, and even the best economists are puzzled about how to balance the books in the West (or if). So while I tend towards Obama’s centre-left economics of the free market with interventionism and specific funding, I state this with no great certainty. Where I do believe Obama should be president is in what he stands for, or is seen to, compared to Romney.

Obama is a Law School graduate and former community organiser who can connect as well with those in academia as those in the hood (if that sounds racist, consider the miniscule votes Romney polls among black voters – as low as 0% in one NBC/Wall Street Journal poll. While Romney is a former venture capitalist with a net worth of between £120 and £156 million, who, although philanthropic, has morally dubious business and tax records. And also, it’s hard to know exactly what he stands for, because he, as the US commentariat are putting it, he flip-flops on so many issues (though it must be said Obama is not immune from the trait). As much as the first televised debate represented a fight back for Romney, it was largely because he so effectively almost rebranded himself as “Moderate Mitt”.

This is not to mention the Republican party as a whole, members of which in recent years have, variously, claimed that the female body has ways of shutting down the reproductive systems in cases of ‘legitimate rape’ (Todd Akin – member of a Congress Science, Space and Technology Committee, no less); evolution, embryology and the Big Bang Theory are “lies from the pit of hell” (Paul Broun, member of George’s state version of the committee, among others); and pregnancy through rape is god’s gift (presidential candidate Rick Santorum, who said he’d say the same thing if his daughter was impregnated through rape, so at the very least he’s consistent).

Obama, on the other hand, represents (or at least represented) a progressive breath of fresh air for many different groups once, or still, ‘marginalised’ in America, without doing so at the expense of the white minority. And he backs it up with sometimes costly but certainly well-intentioned policies such as food stamps, cheaper healthcare, better funding for students, research and green energy, and support for the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act and The Dodd Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. His image is also better abroad than the home, partly thanks to some recent foreign policy gaffes from Romney. In the media- and celebrity-obsessed States, the importance of the statesman, as opposed to the bureaucrat, should not underestimated. I just hope too many don’t brand him as a useless socialist.

Who will be president…

It is frequently said no president has got re-elected with unemployment above 8%, and as such Obama has a rather sizeable noose around neck with the current rate of 8.2% (which has hovered at around the same level throughout his presidency). Romney has cleverly used these figures –usually under the more headline-grabbing 23 million unemployed– and the Reagan question – are you better off than you were four years ago? – to attack the president. Add to this a staggering $16 trillion national debt, and Romney’s quicker-fix mantra of getting business moving with less state spending and lower taxes will certainly play well to many in a notoriously passionate, optimistic country which prides itself on a kind of utopian libertarianism – which is arguably unattainable but that’s beside the point. (An American friend said something very telling recently, and only partly in jest; that in America, the Conservatives would be socialist and Labour would be communist).

But Obama has got some powerful counter-arguments in his armoury. The economy has recovered since the peak of the recession in 2008 and 2009 (though it is slowing); he saved the well-respected Detroit car manufacturing industry; he has been consistently hampered by Republicans in passing legislation, notably the Jobs bill; through no fault of his own the world is changing, with the emerging economies of China, India and Brazil and other ‘Tigers’ and ‘Lions’; and perhaps strongest of all, that “Obama was a surgeon in a crowded operating theatre who asked for a bone saw and was given a rusty scalpel”, as novelist Walter Mosley put it and Obama often reminds. With the economy the numero uno issue, for these reasons I think Obama will be given the benefit of the doubt another term…just.

Joel Durston

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