FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Race for the White House

by DEEPAK TRIPATHI

The season of party conventions will soon be over and America is poised for two months of hard campaigning to elect the next president. There will be debates between Barack Obama and John McCain and between their running mates. The media blitz will get more fierce. Personal attacks will entertain and appall. For the first time in American history, there is serious contender of mixed race for the White House. It makes the issue of race an integral part of the political debate. Some Americans are going to continue to raise it openly. More could well make their choice, after a long period of reflection, one way or the other, as late as the moment of casting their vote.

In the past, I have seen the American democracy at work from close. As I follow the campaign in 2008 from across the Atlantic in Britain, the distance gives me the opportunity of detachment. I hope it allows me a panoramic view of the political tides that are to sweep across America before polling day on November 4. And it makes it possible to look at the democracy in America alongside the leading democracies in Europe and the place citizens of different races and creeds have in them. My interest in America is abiding – a country where I first arrived as a twenty-two-year-old to work as far back as 1974. My young grandchildren are Americans and live there.

Already, I have seen opposite currents in the campaign. On the one hand, a desperate desire for change after eight years of war, economic hemorrhaging and damage to America’s image under the Bush presidency. On the other, the tentative allegiance of sections of potential Democrat voters, despite powerful pledges of support for Barack Obama from Senator Hillary Clinton and the former President, Bill Clinton.

On the one hand, a show of unity between the two rival camps as the Democratic Convention moved towards conclusion. On the other, the uncertainty among some white Americans across the nation, in particular women supporters of Hillary Clinton, who have threatened to switch to John McCain, the Republican. Questions about race and faith, unfair in my view, are barely concealed. Obama’s advisers realize the need to go beyond his powerful rhetoric, to address middle class concerns and to win over undecided voters to give him the victory. How far does his acceptance speech, on the twin themes of rebuilding the economy and restoring America’s moral leadership abroad, go will be clearer as the campaign moves on.

The United States presidency has been a monopoly of Anglo-American politicians since the founding of the country more than two centuries ago. In a country of immigrants from all over the world, this, in itself, is a paradox. Now, the prospect of a break from history is near, but forces of resistance persist. Political fortunes can change rapidly. There is no better acknowledgement of it than by Harold Wilson, the British prime Minister in the 1960s and 1970s, who said that “a week in politics is a long time.” We have seen it in the current campaign in the month of August.

With the battle of the primaries over, and the prospect of an Obama presidency closer, we have seen a shift in the public opinion in August, with McCain running neck-and-neck, or leading. Not all potential voters are convinced that Obama offers something radically different. And there are those who doubt his ability to deliver, saying that promises of reform often become hostages to Congressional battles and resistance from corporate America. Ironically, some of the most radical ideas in America come from smaller parties and activists, like the Greens and the independents, not from the two main parties that have the monopoly of power in the country. Alternative visions are more comfortable in Germany, France and Britain than in America. The ‘tyranny of the majority’, which Alexis de Tocqueville and John Stuart Mill have written about, and which George W. Bush has exercised during his presidency, is more difficult to prevail on this side of the Atlantic.

The conflict between Georgia and Russia has created an environment suitable for jingoism. Mind not the NATO expansion around Russia under the Bush administration. Not the growing American and Israeli presence in Georgia since Mikheil Saakasvili came to power in 2004. Not even Saakasvili’s decision to bomb the breakaway region of South Ossetia, with a vast majority of Russian citizens, before the Russia military intervened. In a CNN interview, the Russian Prime Minister, Vladimir Putin, has directly accused the Bush administration of encouraging Georgia to attack South Ossetia, to help a presidential candidate in the coming election. Americans, said Putin, were present in the conflict zone, ‘doing as they were ordered’. Predictably, the White House and the State Department issued swift denials, calling the Russian accusations ‘ludicrous’ and ‘not rational’.

I am reminded at this point of something John McCain’s chief strategist, Charlie Black, said in a Fortune Magazine interview last June. With two-thirds of Americans saying the war in Iraq was not worth fighting, and growing worries about the economy, Black was asked whether another attack on U.S. soil would help McCain. His reply: “Certainly, it would be a big advantage to him.” Charlie Black later apologized for his comments.

After trailing in opinion polls for weeks, August has been a good month for McCain. Between now and November 4, the Bush administration and the Republican Party will try to keep the focus on national security. Russia is not the power the Soviet Union was. But there will be talk of the menace of Moscow. Declarations on the need for a strong America and a tough stance towards Russia will persist.

We will hear more claims of success in America’s war in Iraq, although hundreds of civilians still die there every month. Contrary to evidence in Afghanistan and Pakistan, there will be assertions about progress in the ‘war on terror’. The American military will continue its secret operation to send Guantanamo detainees to countries like Algeria, Tunisia, Saudi Arabia and Egypt. And claims will be made again and again that only John McCain is fit to be the president of the United States – a veteran of the Vietnam War, in which he endured torture and America lost.

It was the Vietnam War that brought the presidency of Lyndon Johnson to an abrupt end in 1968. Richard Nixon resigned in 1974 after the Watergate scandal. Nixon’s handpicked successor, President Gerald Ford, gave him a full, unconditional pardon, which contributed to Ford’s defeat to Jimmy Carter two years later. Had there been no American hostage crisis in the wake of the collapse of the pro-U.S. regime in Iran, and the failed attempt to rescue the hostages, Carter might not have been defeated by Ronald Reagan in the 1980 election. And it was the perceived failure of George Bush Senior to tackle the inner-city problems after the Los Angeles riots which turned the tide against him and gave victory to Bill Clinton in 1992.

We know where the tidal waves took us in the past. Do we know what they are about to do now?

DEEPAK TRIPATHI, a former BBC journalist, is an author and a researcher. He has both lived and worked in America and continues to take a keen interest in the country. His website is http://deepaktripathi.wordpress.com and he can be reached at DandATripathi@gmail.com.

 

Your Ad Here
 

 

 

 

Deepak Tripathi is a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society and the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland. His works can be found at: http://deepaktripathi.wordpress.com and he can be reached at deepak.tripathi.writer@gmail.com.

More articles by:
Weekend Edition
July 29, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Michael Hudson
Obama Said Hillary will Continue His Legacy and Indeed She Will!
Jeffrey St. Clair
She Stoops to Conquer: Notes From the Democratic Convention
Rob Urie
Long Live the Queen of Chaos
Ismael Hossein-Zadeh
Evolution of Capitalism, Escalation of Imperialism
Margot Kidder
My Fellow Americans: We Are Fools
Lewis Evans
Executing Children Won’t Save the Tiger or the Rhino
Vijay Prashad
The Iraq War: a Story of Deceit
Chris Odinet
It Wasn’t Just the Baton Rouge Police Who Killed Alton Sterling
Brian Cloughley
Could Trump be Good for Peace?
Patrick Timmons
Racism, Freedom of Expression and the Prohibition of Guns at Universities in Texas
Gary Leupp
The Coming Crisis in U.S.-Turkey Relations
Pepe Escobar
Is War Inevitable in the South China Sea?
Norman Pollack
Clinton Incorruptible: An Ideological Contrivance
Robert Fantina
The Time for Third Parties is Now!
Andre Vltchek
Like Trump, Hitler Also Liked His “Small People”
Serge Halimi
Provoking Russia
David Rovics
The Republicans and Democrats Have Now Switched Places
Andrew Stewart
Countering The Nader Baiter Mythology
Rev. William Alberts
“Law and Order:” Code words for White Lives Matter Most
Ron Jacobs
Something Besides Politics for Summer’s End
David Swanson
It’s Not the Economy, Stupid
Erwan Castel
A Faith that Lifts Barricades: The Ukraine Government Bows and the Ultra-Nationalists are Furious
Steve Horn
Did Industry Ties Lead Democratic Party Platform Committee to Nix Fracking Ban?
Robert Fisk
How to Understand the Beheading of a French Priest
Colin Todhunter
Sugar-Coated Lies: How The Food Lobby Destroys Health In The EU
Franklin Lamb
“Don’t Cry For Us Syria … The Truth is We Shall Never Leave You!”
Caoimhghin Ó Croidheáin
The Artistic Representation of War and Peace, Politics and the Global Crisis
Frederick B. Hudson
Well Fed, Bill?
Harvey Wasserman
NY Times Pushes Nukes While Claiming Renewables Fail to Fight Climate Change
Elliot Sperber
Pseudo-Democracy, Reparations, and Actual Democracy
Uri Avnery
The Orange Man: Trump and the Middle East
Marjorie Cohn
The Content of Trump’s Character
Missy Comley Beattie
Pick Your Poison
Kathleen Wallace
Feel the About Turn
Joseph Grosso
Serving The Grid: Urban Planning in New York
John Repp
Real Cooperation with Nations Is the Best Survival Tactic
Binoy Kampmark
The Scourge of Youth Detention: The Northern Territory, Torture, and Australia’s Detention Disease
Kim Nicolini
Rain the Color Blue with a Little Red In It
Cesar Chelala
Gang Violence Rages Across Central America
Phillip Kim et al.
Open Letter to Bernie Sanders from Former Campaign Staffers
Tom H. Hastings
Africa/America
Robert Koehler
Slavery, War and Presidential Politics
Charles R. Larson
Review: B. George’s “The Death of Rex Ndongo”
July 28, 2016
Paul Street
Politician Speak at the DNC
Jeffrey St. Clair
Night of the Hollow Men: Notes From the Democratic Convention
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail