William Saunderson-Meyer
William Saunderson-Meyer

The American Dream in a rough patch

It’s the American dream with an offshore twist. Although proportionately fewer than in 2008, foreigners in their droves supported Barack Obama in this week’s United States presidential election.

The Gallup poll, of 26 000 people in 32 countries, found that 63% thought the US president had a high or very high impact on their lives and that 81% of the almost half who wished they could vote, backed Obama.

This proves the right’s suspicions. This guy’s obviously an African-born Muslim with forged citizenship papers, a wild-eyed socialist programmed by the country’s enemies to white-ant – oops, black-ant – the American way by getting rid of its citizen’s guns along with the White House Christmas tree.

The poll is a compelling rebuttal of the facile view that American domestic politics is irrelevant to the rest of humanity. Albeit waning, as the last superpower the US has an impact and influence everywhere, from Australia to Zimbabwe. So it is understandable that the world would prefer Obama over a bellicose geriatric in 2008 and an über-creepy Mormon missionary with flashing gnashers in 2012.

The high hopes that Obama inspired first time around have, however, dissipated. Just as well. Champagne moments, as South Africans now know, are energising and briefly inspirational, but have little to do with the everyday of realities of getting, using and keeping power.

This columnist wrote in 2008, ‘Those delirious with unrealistic expectations of the first African-American president will inevitably in time be disappointed. It is one thing to symbolise change, another to be its agent, especially in a society in the grip of powerful, conservative elites.’

While right about the disappointment, I was wrong about the change.

Obama has not been as successful as his supporters hoped, but he has been far more successful than his detractors claim. As New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman put it, Obama’s victory has been devastating to the Republicans in that ‘a country with nearly 8% unemployment preferred to give the president a second chance rather than Mitt Romney a first one’.

By 2016 the US will have been irretrievably altered by Obama’s eight years at the helm. What seems radical now, will have become accepted.

His controversial health care reforms by then will seem less like a dangerous Commie plot than an appropriate mechanism to deliver affordable medicine to the marginalised, belatedly bringing the richest nation on Earth into line with the rest of the industrialised world.

Women’s rights, gay rights, minority rights all grew apace under Obama. This was the far right’s best and last chance to thwart social changes such as abortion, single-sex marriage and Latino immigration.

Demography is destiny and the era of old, all-white snobbish male establishment deciding the fate of the ‘little people’ – the 47% that Republican candidate and part-time billionaire Mitt Romney dismissed so cavalierly – is forever finished.

The governance rules that Obama has imposed on a sometimes rampantly self-destructive financial sector will not, after all, be overturned. Worse for America’s elite, the wealthy will find themselves paying more taxes as part of the White House attempt to resolve the fiscal deficit, rather than it being left to the rest of their countrymen to soak up the pain of federal spending cuts.

Not since Richard Nixon’s 1970s has the US been so divided, so partisan, so rancorous, so intractable. Some Republicans were willing to stoop to anything, including damaging the nation they profess to love, to ensure that Obama was a one-term president. They failed and will have to rethink sabotaging the president, or suffer more electoral pain.

One doesn’t have to be a starry-eyed idealist to take pleasure in Obama’s win. Hell, a notoriously self-indulgent nation in a rough patch has opted to grit it out with hard choices, instead of being seduced by promises of an easy fix. That’s good, and not only for Americans.

Tags: , , ,

  • Walk the talk, Obama: Help Africa get a permanent seat on the UN Security Council
  • Farewell Cuba
  • Obama and Kenyatta’s clash over LGBTI rights highlights the need for a much-needed discussion
  • The Donald adds an Obama-like spark to 2016 race
    • http://southafricana.blogspot.com Dave Harris

      What a strange turnaround – from your normal ridicule of black leadership.

      What you fail to understand is the collapse of the white elite with their corporate (Rupert Murdoch & gang) media in determining this election outcome. The “little people”, now understand how the election game is played and Obama won an overwhelming 8 of 9 swing states! This was counter to all the predictions of the entire mainstream media about the elections being “close”!!! similar to your DA’s use of media to create hysteria about government corruption, xenophobia, crime etc. Hopefully our large black voting bloc in the WCape will also rise up one day to take back control from the DA and our media reform laws will break our media mafia dominance!

      Btw, your candidate Romney, did not promise an “easy fix” but ran on convincing the skeptical public that his “business experience” and reducing taxes was the answer to the “self-indulgent nation in a rough patch” created by almost a decade of conservative politics. Just like how the DA blames the government and not our centuries of colonialism and apartheid for our racial socioeconomic disparity.

      Furthermore, Obama’s historic healthcare bill that the necons hate, is not for the “marginalized” but the middle class!!! Its just like how your DA opposes our governments NHI initiative and social transformation initiatives like affirmative action etc.

    • http://none Lyndall Beddy

      I really enjoyed this post – not much makes me laugh these days!

    • Sterling Ferguson

      @Meyer, Obama didn’t cause the meltdown in 2008 and it didn’t occur on his watch.
      The R-party tried to link the high unemployment to Obama and the people didn’t buy this lie. There was no way with this $22 T dollars meltdown that, Obama could have turned this ship around that fast. Obama spent the first two years trying to get the water out of the ship now, the economy is growing along with the decline in unemployment. Also, you should remember that there were two wars that the previous administration left for him.

      @Harris, there is no comparison with what happening in SA with the ANC and Obama. The ANC people are all a bunch of liars and stealing from the people. There is no justification for Zuma taking state money to use on his personal home when so many people are living in poverty in SA.

    • American

      Only a racist would make a ridiculous comment like ‘black leadership’ regarding Obama. It must be hard being either so intellectually limited, or so wilfully bilious, or both. Fortunately the majority of people, of all races, lack the peculiar viciousness of this particular commentator.

    • Juju Esq.

      This Obama victory is the beginning of the end of the far rights influence in American politics. The far right that championed Bush, Palin, Romney and McCain is now dead in the water.

      The future will be a battle between conservative Democrats and progressive Democrats.

      The lines will be drawn between conservative Dems and moderate Republicans on the one hand, and progressive Dems and a Green Socialist alliance on the other.

      The world is starting to move forward and out of the grip of the conservative right.

    • Frans Verloop

      I think the Republican defeat is mainly due to 1) an unattractive candidate in Mit Romney, 2) its policy on immigration which sent most immigrants into the arms of the Democrats and 3) its attempt to accommodate the religious fundamentalists.
      Interestingly most libertarians, who are normally regarded as far right, such as the Cato Institute, the Heritage Foundation, the FEE favour open borders for immigrants and fairly easy naturalisation for those who succeed. They say that is how America become great in the past and is in accordance with their views on liberty that people should be free to go where they want.
      There is, ofcourse, a difference. Up to the first half of last century the only people who came to America were those who wanted to work, stand on their own feet and pay their own way through life and were proud of it. These days a fair proportion of them come in the hope of benefitting from the social provisions for the down and out, the lazy and the incompetents. The same is happening in Europe but even on a bigger scale.

    • http://none Lyndall Beddy

      The USA is swinging to the left. In the future it will swing to the right again.This happens in all real democracies where there is a real opposition. The excesses of either right or left get corrected by the voters.

    • Malava

      A balanced article.

    • http://southafricana.blogspot.com Dave Harris

      @Frans Verloop
      The Republican defeat has more to do with the Americans identifying overwhelming with the Obama’s direction on the immigration, foreign policy, women’s rights, healthcare, taxes etc. and to a large degree to his economic plan even though the country went through a recession during Obama’s first term. It seems like most Americans, with the exception of old while males, could not stomach Romney’s sleazy care salesman appearance and demeanor. Libertarians in the US are like our Freedom Front – nobody cares! LOL.

      Before you label the recent wave of immigrant from developing countries into developed countries as “the lazy and the incompetents”, think of what the generations of oppression and plunder that these ex-colonial host countries have wreaked upon these indigenous cultures. The chickens are surely coming home to roost.

      Do you, like many white supremacists, wish to deny Obama his black heritage?

    • Balt Verhagen

      @ American

      Well observed and even better said

      The ‘peculiar viciousness’ of what you euphemistically desribe as a particular commentator actually derives from an embedded propagandist extraordinaire that persistently and pathetically tries to destabilise this blogsite’s thoughtleadership.

    • Sterling Ferguson

      @Verloop, you got that wrong some people came to the US and worked very hard to go up the ladder, the others would rob, steal, blackmail, extort and murder to go up the ladder. You shouldn’t forget about the million of people that were brought to the US in chains to work for nothing.

    • http://southafricana.blogspot.com Dave Harris

      @Balt Verhagen
      “tries to destabilise this blogsite’s thoughtleadership”
      Gosh, you must either hate free speech or like “American”, simple spout out inane comments,

    • The Critical Cynic

      @ American
      Perhaps you have noticed how racists like to bring race into every discussion and then turn it into the focal point instead of sticking to the original discussion. Unfortunately the majority of SA’s racists are in denial and under the impression that you first need a white skin in order to be a racist. Dave Harris suffers from this delusional thinking regularly, as well as a huge dose of assumptive ideas (such as his assumption that WSM is a Republican!), so you need to read past him to see the occasional points with merit he has to make.

      The reason he states “What a strange turnaround – from your normal ridicule of black leadership” is proof enough of his racist assumptive character that associates any criticism of our current SA ANC political ‘leadership’ to be racist criticism instead of merely criticism of corruption, poor decision making, inept leadership and incompetence – these are negative traits that have no affiliation to any particular skin colour but just happen to be on constant display by the ‘ruling’ ANC, who also happen to be a largely black political party. If you think American Democracy is in trouble you should come and have a good look at our abomination of a democracy!

    • The Critical Cynic

      Based on the few comments you have made, I would make the assumption that you are NOT a a Republican or a white supremist, which is contrary to the assumption by Dave Harris that Romney’s your man, along with his insinuation that you are white supremacists (I’m treating that word as a typo – I hope I’ve made the right assumption though!).

      Here’s an indication of the kind of flawed logic Dave Harris represents the ANC with: He reckons that “most Americans, with the exception of old while males, could not stomach Romney’s sleazy car salesman appearance and demeanor”. Really Dave, since when are there 56million old white males in the USA? And the other 57million that voted for Obama are by your definition most americans? Dissection of the recent US elections attributes a significant portion of the votes for Romney more as votes against more of Obama than votes for Romney, and it is quite possible they did include a large percentage of the old white male votes, but when it comes to MOST americans, most of them (the other approximately 200 million) did NOT vote. MOST Americans are sick of their [sick] political system.

    • http://www.ledula.com athollt

      I don’t follow American politics that closely because it depresses me.

      Maybe Obama would have a chance of bringing in some real change except that the Republicans only goal when they aren’t in power is to block anything the Democrats propose. The Democrats did exactly the same thing when the Republicans were in power……and this is supposed to be the healthiest Democracy in the world, the system seems horribly broken!

    • Sterling Ferguson

      @Cynic, the US unemployment rate is 7.8 percent and most people are eating like dogs and going out every night having a ball. The election last Tuesday had 120 million people voted and Obama got 62 million as opposed to Romney getting 58 millions. In a vast country like the US million of people are not able to vote because some are traveling outside of their home state, sick, and some haven’t registered to vote. There are those for religious reason do not believe in taking part in an election by voting.

    • Tofolux

      Can someone please recognise the fact that OBAMA IS NOT the PRESIDENT of the WORLD. In fact, AMERICA does not own the WORLD. Feudalism has come and gone or has it?

    • Sterling Ferguson

      @Tofolux, what goes on in the US impacts the whole world and it shouldn’t be that way. The US has the largest economy in the world and this is why this country carry so much weight. People talk about China has the second largest economy in the world but, they don’t tell you that it’s a distance second.

    • Charlotte

      ” …OBAMA IS NOT the PRESIDENT of the WORLD. In fact, AMERICA does not own the WORLD.” You’re kidding!!!
      Even for Tofolfux, this must be the most childish, asinine comment anyone has ever made on Thought Leader!

    • DeeGee

      @Tofolux. No. But maybe this might put some perspective on why the US elections are important in a global context: http://www.census.gov/compendia/statab/2012/tables/12s1348.pdf

    • Cynic