Some Ironies Of The US Presidential Elections

Now that the inital frenzy is slowly giving way to real life, perhapse a couple of thoughts on election of Barack Obama for the next president of the United States of America:

(a disclaimer: please note that in this case I’m only an outside observer with a keen interest and may have as such overlooked important details)

OK, so political correctness was never my forte :mrgreen:

First and foremost, election results show that US democracy is indeed alive and well. I’ve always maintained that democratic prinicples are implemented by attempts at breaching them. WMD-related-hide-and-seek, Guantanamo, Patriot Act, purging of voters, you name it… The last eight years made the USA anything but a beacon of democracy and at moments it seemed that “e pluribus unum” seemed just a waste of ink on an increasingly worthless dollar bill.

However, the system, which was almost-but-not-quite derailed, bounced back and reaifirmed the old truth, that Newton’s third law applies to politics as well. Every action produces an equal but opposite reaction. But the real proof of democracy being alive and well is the fact that the system can absorb such shocks and swings.

This election was about race and sex as much as it was about politics, yet both were aluded at only eliptically. The irony of Barack Obama’s election for the top job is, that – in order to become the first black president of the US – he had to play down the race card. Even more, he had to pretend that race was not the issue. He even went so far that in his victory speech he only made a passing mention of Martin Luther King, describing him as “a preacher from Atlanta who told a people that ‘we shall overcome'”. Until now it was up to leaders of black community to try to convince the white establishment that “race didn’t matter”. Yesterday, Barack Obama told the black community that race doesn’t matter.

The same goes for Hillary Clinton, who was up against similar mechanisms, only from a point of view of a gender. Had she won the Democratic nomination, she would have to prove to women that she did not run for office because she is a woman, just as Obama reiterated that he did not run for office because he is black, but because he can do a better job than the incumbent and his Republican opponent.

On the whole, the US electorate is (still?) pragmatic and can prioritize. Race could have mattered. Sex could have mattered. Experience in security issues could have mattered more. But as the voters got a sneak-peek of an economic and social Armageddon, they realized that all of the above doesn’t matter a pair of fetid dingo’s kidneys if they’re faced with a prospect of going down to the docks to see if there’s some work.

Negative campaigning aside, Republicans – be it willingly or unwillingly – played a huge part making race and sex a non-issue.. It was as if a spell was broken. What seemed impossible only two years ago, was suddenly perfectly logical. While it was somewhat logical that Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton did not trade blows on race and gender (it would, afterall be a case of the pot calling the kettle black), the fact that Republicans chose to ignore Obama’s weakest point – that they did not portray him as a “racial candidate” – contributed a lot to Obama’s becoming and remainig acceptable to a wide range of voters who might have voted Republican if the racial card was invoked.

And while the decision to ingore this issue might seem obvious, it was a very brave decision to do so. Going after Obama’s race would probably clinch McCain’s victory, but would poison – if not completely sever – itnerracial relations in the US, both politically and quite possibly in a society as a whole. But the Republicans went one step further. Not only they set a standard in term of race (or more acurately, reacting to a non-white opponent), but they also set a standard in terms of gender.

Although she may well be on her way to join Dan Quayle in the House of Political Horrors, nominating Sarah Palin for John McCain’s running mate single-handedly took care of the can-a-woman-ever-be-president dillema. In the words of Barack Obama: yes, she can. If the Democratic party made history, it was the Republican party which held the rear. And John McCain – especially his concession speech – was instrumental in this.

There. My fifty cents πŸ˜€

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21 thoughts on “Some Ironies Of The US Presidential Elections”

  1. Well, the Republicans started to admit black people of female sex into politics (you know: big style) with giving Ms. C. Rice the ministry of defence – this went down without much ado about her not being a WASP, too, I think. It did look like a brave move.

    I still wonder whether they really wanted to win this election. Maybe there’s so much shit to hit the fan there it will last for the next few years. And when America’s again done with the Democrats, here they come.

    I have had this thought ever since I read McCain was going to appoint an unknown, female, young governor from, like, somewhere near Russia…

  2. In his speech he actually made more than one passing reference to the black struggle –Selma, Montgomery, etc — the most poignant of which was his story about the 106-year-old woman who voted that morning. While those instances are particularly significant to black Americans, it’s important to note that they are pivotal milestones in American history. Even world history.

    Sure race mattered. Cynically put, race has had political value since the final voting barriers blacks faced were finally removed less than 50 years ago. No party ignores “the black vote”, whatever that ultimately means. But common sense dictates than any serious candidate has to look at the bigger picture. No-brainer.

    The difference with Obama is largely a generational one. He had nothing to do with King and the civil rights movement of the 60s; he was, at least in part, a result of those struggles. The last serious black candidate for a major party was Jesse Jackson in 1984 and particularly in 1988. For ‘average’ Americans (draw your own definition of what that means) he was too closely associated with that “black movement” to be considered a candidate with a wider appeal. I remember that primary campaign. He won or did very well in several early voting states. The media response was somewhat puzzling, along the lines of, “What does Jesse Jackson really want?” Attitudes have changed over those 20 years.

    Somewhat unrelated to this post, but since you’ve brought her up over the past few days: You really are giving Sarah Palin waaaaay to much credit. πŸ™‚ There’s stuff being reported now, and will continue to be reported, on how clueless she really is. (As if we needed any more evidence). Just this morning I read a report about her inability to name all the countries in North America, and how she apparently was under the impression that Africa was one country, and that the Republic of South Africa was simply a southern region of Africa.

    If the Republicans really think she is the “future,” I say, cool. Go for it.

  3. I don’t think he had to play down anything. He simply isn’t just black, he is white also. That is his advantage which was never overly stressed, but people understood anyway.

  4. Whatever one feels about La Palin (and I guess some commentators on this blog may hold some very strong opinions) and whatever her faults, she was seen by many Republicans as manna from heaven. I suspect we haven’t seen the last of her on the national stage.

  5. @pirano: Hmm, well you know how the saying goes be careful what you read. That question about North America is a typical question just so you can bash a candidate. Whoever asked it knew she was going to get it wrong, most people would. First it all depends how you define NA, as the continent or just a region like North, Central, South. If it’s the latter and she gets it wrong well ok she’s a dummy. But if they’re asking about the continent….well are you telling me you actually remember every single island nation in the Carribean? I looked it up, I got every country on the mainland but I forgot some of those islands. I mean seriously walk down the street and ask anyone to name every country in NA you won’t find one who can do it. The part about Africa is sad if it’s true, but after a baited question like the first one, I’m not sure I would believe that report.

    And just to play devil’s advocate, πŸ˜› which is worse in your opinion? A candidate who is a little rusty on geography, or a politician who doesn’t even know their own party’s & country’s political history. (i.e. Biden saying FDR was president during the Depression and that he addressed the nation on the TV.) <- And you can find a video clip of him saying that.

  6. <–Load that page and scroll down for a list of countries in NA. If you actually named everyone, you have a great memory. πŸ™‚

    Personally I’ve always been great with geography of Europe, Asia, Africa, SA. Not so much with the lower half of NA, especially all them little islands.

  7. Michael: It’s from an O’Reilly Factor show on Fox, hardly a crew out to make Palin look bad. Report based on what campaign insiders found “troubling” about Palin and why she was as shielded as she was. The “countries in North America” thing was asked in the context of “Which countries make up NAFTA.” Hardly a loaded question, and not too much to expect from just about any high school graduate, let alone someone seeking the vice presidency.

    “I mean seriously walk down the street and ask anyone to name every country in NA…”

    The problem with that is that Palin wasn’t just some person walking down the street.

  8. @Pirano: Ok, well NAFTA & NA are a world of difference. πŸ™‚ So yeah I’ll agree on that part it is sad.

    And with my quote about “walking down the street”, is that just about everyone is going to get the NA (not NAFTA) question wrong. Unless you’re one of those Geography bee kids who study like crazy to win those contests. Let’s be honest most politicians aren’t geniuses. Most are probably on par with a College Grad. So it isn’t too much to relate to a person on the street. At any rate I’d bet money, not one congressmen would be able to name every country in NA.

    BTW, you didn’t answer my 2nd question about geography/political history. πŸ™‚

  9. @Michael N: FDR was President during the Great Depression (source). As for his address on television, perhaps this will help clear up the confusion?

    Or am I missing something here?

  10. @alcessa: Point. Condi Rice and Collin Powell slipped my mind. Thanks πŸ™‚

    @Adriaan: Well, with the looming recession I’ll be back to my two cents daily soon πŸ˜‰

    @venera: OK, but I don’t think he ever opposed the “title” of the first black president. I mean, he is half-caucasian genetically, but sociologically, I think he’s as African-American as they come, regardless of his top-notch education. No?

    @Pirano & Michael N.: Thanks for the insight, guys! Much appreciate it!

  11. @ Michael N – I’ve heard Biden say LOTS of dumb things over the past 20+ years. But there’s a big difference between saying something really dumb and being really.. well, entirely unfit on virtually every level to be a vice president.

    And no, I don’t think it’s too much to expect members of congress to know the basics of geography, history etc of their immediate region or the rest of the world. It’s not too much to expect them to be at least a notch above the average college grad, either.

  12. @pengovsky: Sorry should’ve been more specific. He was talking about just after the stock market crash in 1929. Hoover was President at that time.

    @Pirano: While I was eating lunch, I was listening to the radio and heard about those reports you spoke of. From what I heard they are all anonymous reports coming from the McCain campaign workers. Same source Fox News is getting them from. With that information, I’m wary of the validity of this all. Besides the geography allegations, she supposedly was so hard on these workers (good grief) she made some of them cry (some of these people need to grow a pair!). Sounds to me like, a bunch of whiny little punks throwing their VP candidate under the bus. What a shock; political insiders stabbing someone in the back, for their own gain. This just sounds like the McCain campaign workers covering their own ass because they lost and are trying to deflect the blame and loss all onto Palin instead of their own crappy political strategy to win the election.

    Some of the reports may be true, but at this point they could probably say anything and people will believe it. Of course they fail to realize it’s most likely just a bunch of disgruntled campaign workers who are worried about getting rightfully blamed, and want to be able to work for the next GOP election campaign in 2012. Frankly I hope none of these jokers are back for 2012.

    I thought the conservative commentator that I was listening to nailed it right on the head. If these people in the McCain campaign who are throwing Palin under the bus had put this much enthusiasm & effort into getting their candidate elected, maybe they wouldn’t have lost the election!

    Well you’re right it’s not too much to expect them to be a notch above a college grad…of course my point is most of them aren’t. They sure like to give the impression they’re much more intelligent then the rest of us. Sadly, it’s almost never true!

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