I was hopeful that Barack Obama would get re-elected – but I didn’t expect that the results would be announced that early. And obviously, who could have told for sure?
Many people in my family, here in Germany, had to leave school after the few years of education that were mandatory. One of them was my grandaunt who lived next door to us. When we were kids, she often told us – her grandnewphes and -nieces, and her grandchildren – about how she cried when, as they say, “life began”, with the usual small, ill-paid jobs and then marrying and raising kids who would then enter the same life after a few years. We laughed at the time, and she laughed with us (or at us). We found the idea ridiculous that we would cry on our last day in school. But that was in the 1970s, and times had changed. A window of opportunities had opened to “small people”. Access to education was no longer a prerogative of people who could afford it. Our grandaunt’s experience had been very different from ours.
Germany is very different from the U.S.. I’m not trying to judge now if there have almost been more opportunities for everyone in America. What I do know that what happens in America is still quite formative for Europe, too. That’s, too, why I’m glad that Obama’s presidency is going to continue.
I believe that America has done herself a favor, and that she’s done many of us outside America a favor, too, last night. When things looked rather bleak, i. e. before the Democrats’ convention and Bill Clinton‘s great speech, this was about how I felt about the presidential elections.
As an outsider to American politics, but one who hopes that America will remain a leading nation, I hope for a number of reasons that Obama will get a second term. It may – but that’s probably an open question, given that this is a very different Republican-dominated House of Representatives from the one during the later Clinton years – also lead to an end of the current permanent Republican “election campaign” (which started more than two years ago, and which has never ended).
The point is this: Obama acknowledges that America needs rebuilding, and addresses this issue, however flawed at times. The Republican ticket suggests that Americans just need to be “themselves”, and God, natural law, or whatever else, will add its decisive blessings. Mullahs rule more brutally than Republicans – but Republicans haven’t ruled more rationally than Mullahs, after Y2K.
Obama will continue to face a Congress with a number of outrightly hostile members. But that would have been true for Mitt Romney, too. He would either have turned out to be a relative moderate and would have faced similar gridlock tendencies, or he would have complied with the sectarians, which would have been a nightmare. The truth is, Romney gave nobody a chance to tell which kind of president he would be.
That left a lot of room for Obama – “the devil we know”, as the Economist put it last weekend, in a lacklustre endorsement for the incumbent. When a paper which actually dislikes Obama for “not loving capitalism” needs to endorse him anyway, this should be food for thought for the Republicans.
While being happy with the outcome of the presidential elections, I seem to understand that voters need real, credible alternatives to a status quo. That’s what elections are about. If large swathes of the GOP continues to ignore that, another “market-oriented” party – some kind of Bloomberg party, maybe – will replace them.
Next stop (unless it’s ignored): the fiscal cliff. Maybe we’ll see a few weeks of sanity in Washington, D.C.. But at any rate, there will be a safe pair of hands in the White House.
» Obama wins re-election, BBC, Nov 7, 2012