November 9, 2012

A second term for Barack Obama

Fri, Nov 9, 2012

The historic second triumph of US President Barack Obama, has been welcomed with relief in many parts of the world. It is a sentiment shared by most Vincentians, in the diaspora and at home, and indeed, by most Caribbean people. This may seem to some to be based solely on ethnic grounds, given a common African heritage, but it is much more than that.{{more}}

This is not to say that race did not play a role, but, given the composition of the American electorate, President Obama had much more going for him than the colour of his skin. In a country which is deeply divided politically, his shared vision continued to bring hope in troubling times, a sense of balanced recovery, justice and opportunities for the American working people. Above all, he has demonstrated the importance of dialogue in trying to resolve international conflicts and carved a path away from the ruinous wars which have wrought havoc on the economy of his country, and the global economy, as a result.

Tuesday’s repeat victory was very different from Obama’s initial Presidential victory in 2008. That was an emotional experience, signalling the first time that a Black person had risen to the head of his country’s power structure. The four years since then have been testing ones which strained the patience of even the President’s most faithful supporters. Obama has had to deal with the intransigence of the Republican leadership and its determination to block every progressive move, in order not just to bring him down, but also to stain his legacy forever.

The combination of anti-people, pro-millionaire and warmongering policies was underpinned by an open hostility and racism, best encapsulated in Mitt Romney’s warcry to “take back America”. It is as if Black People, whose sweat and blood helped to nurture and build the USA, through slavery, the conquest of the native people, the war of Independence, the Civil War, the two World Wars and the bloody armed conflicts in the Far East, South-East Asia and now the Middle East, have no right to occupy the highest political office in the land.

The efforts to denigrate and remove Obama have severely retarded progress in getting the US and global economy back on track. Instead of bipartisan support for initiatives for economic rejuvenation, partisan division led to refusal to cooperate. The American people have suffered as a result and the rest of us with them, given the crucial importance of the US economy.

Now, in his second term, the American people have reposed in President Obama the mandate to lead the recovery. What can we expect? First, before rushing to any judgements, we have to realize that the Caribbean does not rank high on the list of American priorities. Obama or no Obama, black or white President, that is a reality. But there is no doubt that given the outlook of the Obama administration, it is a far cry from what a Romney-Tea Party Republican administration would have been.

What is important now is for the Caribbean to get its own act together, be clear on its priorities and embark on patient efforts to build and strengthen links with the Obama administration. The on-going economic problems in the USA will continue to demand the major focus of the US government, but the space opened for dialogue, for continued cooperation on security matters and in governance, must be utilized. In addition our specific concerns, such as those relating to immigration issues and trade, must continue to be placed on the table.