Book Reviews | Gordon Campbell | News Flashes | Scoop Features | Scoop Video | Strange & Bizarre | Search

 


The Hollow Victory: Obama and the Triumph of Small Margins

The Hollow Victory: Obama and the Triumph of Small Margins

Binoy Kampmark
November 9, 2012

‘No way Mittiepoo!’ ‘Mitt Romney is checking the math. That’s why its taking so long.’ The hubris, the excitement, and the ugliness of the cheering. The swear words on social media are being cast with a good dosage of bile. There have been “Olympic levels of Schadenfreude,” according to the Guardian bloggers. True, Barack Obama has been re-elected after much guff about the nature of the challenge, an inflated expectation about how Romney might perform, and a deep misunderstanding about the nature of the previous presidency. True, a trigger happy Mormon will not be winding his way into the corridors of power – at least those corridors associated with DC. (For years, power in the United States has been exercised outside DC.) But is there really much reason to cheer?

President Obama himself put it in the mechanical way that we have come to expect in an election campaign that cost $US 2.6 billion, characterised by a repetitive numbing negativity, that was so weighed down, one might even say asphyxiated by Super PACs and money heavies. “The great thing about these campaigns is after all the TV ads, all the fundraising and all the debates and all the electioneering, it comes down to this.” This is very much in tune with the remarks of the ever provocative Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who termed the election a “battleground for capitalists.”

The United States excels in feeding two rights wings, punctuated by occasional displays of populist inanity. The more moderate right wing won in the face of vaudeville styled extremism. The Tea Party crew, hyperventilating with indignation, will have to wait. The fact that Romney, afflicted by the condition of Romnesia, did not find himself the new commander-in-chief, should only give us cold comfort.

It has been said that Obama’s victory was remarkable for the fact that he managed to secure it in a time of economic stagnation, when “recovery” was taking place at a snail’s pace. Take the observation by The Economist (Nov 10). “No president since FDR had been re-elected with unemployment so high.” But few election victories are ever remarkable. The Electoral College system guarantees the United States against democratic excess, and, if one were to be flippant, access as well – the founding fathers preferred controlled republicanism to unmediated democracy. While Romney came within a shaving of a popular vote, it remained a shaving. “Mitt Romney,” claimed the irritatingly ever present Nate Silver, “has always had difficulty drawing a winning Electoral College hand.”

At the end of the doomed day, Romney did not win those “toss up” states, as pundits so unflatteringly term them. Obama managed to win those states he won in 2008, with Indiana and North Carolina being exceptions. But 332 electoral college votes to 206 might look impressive, till you realise how small the victory actually was.

The America that Obama will govern for another four years is proving to be broken and increasingly ungovernable. Abraham Lincoln’s mystical union is fraying. For one thing, the gender gap, while ill appreciated by the GOP, shows how polarised large blocs of votes have become. When even a gaggle of voters are still willing to back such cartoon candidates as Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock, divisiveness is bound to be just around the corner. Obama secured 55 percent of women’s votes and 45 percent of men’s votes. The story was repeated in the Senate amongst the Democratic majority, where individuals such as Chris Murphy (D-CT) won 60 percent of women’s votes to 49 percent of men’s votes (Huffington Post, Nov 8).

This is just the start. Either the GOP is doomed in its current orientation and male-white mania, or it’s jaundiced functionaries will embrace, in time, the various groups that came out to vote for Obama in strength on November 6. With an almost gloating sense about it, the Spanish paper El Pais suggested that, “Election night showed that any candidate aspiring to the presidency must have [Hispanics] on their side.”

U.S. congressional politics has never been more fractured, mired as it is in a strange echo of an adversarial Westminster Chamber. The consensus politician is dead, struck down by the evolution of an almost vicious strand of partisanship. Obama’s own reforms, notably in healthcare, were initiated without an iota of GOP support.

So, what now? The fiscal “cliff” that is being written about with trepidation approaches (tax rises added to spending cuts, and low levels of growth), and it seems that all parties are heading for it. Even Obama has been willing to be recalcitrant over the findings of his own Bowles-Simpson deficit commission.

The free hand is unleased, and while Obama is bound to remain contained in the Congress in terms of fiscal measures he wishes to implement, the wars of empire, executed with a more clinical ruthlessness, and his various legal manipulations are bound to continue. The status quo in Washington has simply been reaffirmed.

*************

Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge. He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne.

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
Top Scoops Headlines

 

Gordon Campbell: On The Crisis In Greece

Greece, as the cradle of democracy, is getting no brownie points for actually practicing it. The decision by the Greek government to go back to the people for a mandate for the bailout terms being proposed by the Eurozone seems entirely appropriate. More>>

ALSO:

Stories Of Scoop: Alastair Thompson, Scoop Media & The Cost Of Free Journalism

How does a news organization that cares about authentic journalism and has a mission to effect “positive change” continue to operate in these times of derivative storytelling when advertising dollars are no longer determined by the quality of editorial content? More>>

ALSO:

Gordon Campbell: On The Pope’s Encyclical On Climate Change

The spread of market mechanisms into every facet of life – as health, education and the environment get treated as mere commodities – has seen economic efficiency worshipped in its own right as a totem, and as a substitute for morality. The Laudato Si encyclical issued today by Pope Francis on climate change and the environment goes some away to restoring a sane balance. More>>

ALSO:

Scoop Turns Sixteen: How Scoop's “Ethical Paywall” Model Has Changed Everything

As of this month, a broad range of professional organisations, including constitutional institutions, government agencies & departments, NGOs, Unions, CRIs, law firms, PR agencies, accountancy firms, media organisations, libraries and businesses - all of which make regular use of Scoop in their daily work and for professional research - have joined Scoop’s new “Ethical Paywall” copyright licensing scheme. More>>

ALSO:

Gordon Campbell:
On The Sepp Blatter Resignation

Any initial elation at Sepp Blatter’s resignation as the overlord of FIFA will be tempered by his declared intention to stay on until at least December and possibly March 2016, to enable his successor to be elected. Has FIFA got no existing succession plan that could kick in before this? More>>

ALSO:

Gordon Campbell: On The FIFA Scandal, And Similar Dirty Deal

With the US now investigating FIFA’s racketeering and money-laundering activities and the Swiss also looking at the bribes that went into the choice of Russia and Qatar as upcoming FIFA venues, the capos at FIFA are taking the fall for the boss of all bosses, Sepp Blatter - who has somehow been blissfully unaware of the dirty payoffs and extortion rackets conducted on his watch ... More>>

Get More From Scoop

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Top Scoops
Search Scoop  
 
 
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news