Wednesday, March 30, 2011


Obama Surprisingly Well Placed for 2012

I say 'surprisingly' because, don't know about you, I rather thought that since the midterms in 2010 his star was in decline. The Tea Party's noisy populism, plus the ubiquitous awfulness of Sarah Palin had given me the impression the Republicans had already established their claim to the White House next time around. So I was delighted to read this is not the case. Refusing to pay a digital fee to Murdoch I cannot link Andrew Sullivan's piece from the last ST but the essence of it relates to two factors.

Firstly, the Republicans have lost some popularity since their mid-term triumphs they have found that 'actually having to be a part of the government' did not sit well with their 'constant railing'. They have lost support. A poll last week showed Obama versus a 'generic' Republican presidential opponent winning 47-37- a remarkable figure I thought.

Secondly their messages, such as they are, are quintessentially white. Exit polls showed Obama lost the white vote in 2008 43-55 and if the proportion of whites had been the same as in 1958, McCain would have easily triumphed. But it's not. Ethnic minorities are increasingly a force in the electorate. Hispanics are now 16% of all Americans; in five states they form one quarter of voters. Mixed race voters also grew 50% over the last ten years. Republicans have stressed policies like extreme hostility to illegal immigrants and the Tea Party in its weird patriotism, has emphasized the original 'pristine' constitution which excludes African Americans who were than slaves. Polls show Obama leading a Republican candidate 66-16 among hispanics and a staggering 92% among blacks.

Republican have also gone over the top in their efforts to demonise Obama: Gary Younge's piece cites a poll showing over half of Republicans believing Obama was not born in Hawaii(and not therefore the US citizen every president has to be), despite repeated evidence of a genuine birth certificate proving that he was.

Attitudes towards race have not ameliorated since Obama entered the White House- if anything they have sharpened. But ironically it is Obama who is benefiting politically as he receives ever more fervent support from ethnic minorities. And they are growing in numbers while the white constituency is reducing by comparison. Obama reflects America's mixed race composition perfectly and there is nothing the right can do about it apart from resort to crude name calling and lies. And the person whom Obama would trounce more emphatically than any other possible candidate? Sarah Palin. A reason to be cheerful indeed.

As a casual observer, I have been following the competition amongst the Republican contenders to run for President against Obama in 2012. Two things strike me - admittedly from the UK and through the filter of the media and bloggers. The first is that they are all pretty cowardly in that for example, perhaps understandably, many of them won't stand up for policies they once espoused and even applied and, I think without exception they pander to the Christianist humbugs. The second is not to put too fine a point on it, they seem quite mediochre on the whole.

I appreciate that in positioning for an election 18 months away perhaps profundity and vision are too much to hope for but I haven't read anything that looks like giving Obama too many sleepless nights politically. Add in their tin ear to minorities and their leaving themselves open to a populist campaign with their support for entrenching the wealth of the already rich, I agree Obama has reasons to be cheerful.
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