FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Obama and the Triumph of Small Margins

by BINOY KAMPMARK

‘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. Email: bkampmark@gmail.com

Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge. He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne. Email: bkampmark@gmail.com

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
December 09, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Nasty As They Wanna Be
Henry Giroux
Trump’s Second Gilded Age: Overcoming the Rule of Billionaires and Militarists
Andrew Levine
Trump’s Chumps: Victims of the Old Bait and Switch
Chris Welzenbach
The Forgotten Sneak Attack
Lewis Lapham
Hostile Takeover
Joshua Frank
This Week at CounterPunch: More Hollow Smears and Baseless Accusations
Paul Street
The Democrats Do Their Job, Again
Vijay Prashad
The Cuban Revolution: Defying Imperialism From Its Backyard
Michael Hudson - Sharmini Peries
Orwellian Economics
Erin McCarley
American Nazis and the Fight for US History
Mark Ames
The Anonymous Blacklist Promoted by the Washington Post Has Apparent Ties to Ukrainian Fascism and CIA Spying
Yoav Litvin
Resist or Conform: Lessons in Fortitude and Weakness From the Israeli Left
Conn Hallinan
India & Pakistan: the Unthinkable
Andrew Smolski
Third Coast Pillory: Nativism on the Left – A Realer Smith
Joshua Sperber
Trump in the Age of Identity Politics
Brandy Baker
Jill Stein Sees Russia From Her House
Katheryne Schulz
Report from Santiago de Cuba: Celebrating Fidel’s Rebellious Life
Nelson Valdes
Fidel and the Good People
Norman Solomon
McCarthy’s Smiling Ghost: Democrats Point the Finger at Russia
Renee Parsons
The Snowflake Nation and Trump on Immigration
Margaret Kimberley
Black Fear of Trump
Michael J. Sainato
A Pruitt Running Through It: Trump Kills Nearly Useless EPA With Nomination of Oil Industry Hack
Ron Jacobs
Surviving Hate and Death—The AIDS Crisis in 1980s USA
David Swanson
Virginia’s Constitution Needs Improving
Louis Proyect
Narcos and the Story of Colombia’s Unhappiness
Paul Atwood
War Has Been, is, and Will be the American Way of Life…Unless?
John Wight
Syria and the Bodyguard of Lies
Richard Hardigan
Anti-Semitism Awareness Act: Senate Bill Criminalizes Criticism of Israel
Kathy Kelly
See How We Live
David Macaray
Trump Picks his Secretary of Labor. Ho-Hum.
Howard Lisnoff
Interview with a Political Organizer
Yves Engler
BDS and Anti-Semitism
Adam Parsons
Home Truths About the Climate Emergency
Brian Cloughley
The Decline and Fall of Britain
Eamonn Fingleton
U.S. China Policy: Is Obama Schizoid?
Graham Peebles
Worldwide Air Pollution is Making us Ill
Joseph Natoli
Fake News is Subjective?
Andre Vltchek
Tough-Talking Philippine President Duterte
Binoy Kampmark
Total Surveillance: Snooping in the United Kingdom
Guillermo R. Gil
Vivirse la película: Willful Opposition to the Fiscal Control Board in Puerto Rico
Patrick Bond
South Africa’s Junk Credit Rating was Avoided, But at the Cost of Junk Analysis
Clancy Sigal
Investigate the Protesters! A Trial Balloon Filled With Poison Gas
Pierre Labossiere – Margaret Prescod
Human Rights and Alternative Media Delegation Report on Haiti’s Elections
Charles R. Larson
Review:  Helon Habila’s The Chibok Girls: the Boko Haram Kidnappings and Islamist Militancy in Nigeria
David Yearsley
Brahms and the Tears of Britain’s Oppressed
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail