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Thursday, 8 November 2012

Obama's win reflects US electorate's confidence in him

So now it's rainbows and unicorns for many people who cared who got to be US president. If you don't agree with the result then please cut us progressives a bit of slack because a lot of people woke up today as after a nightmare due to imagining what the alternative could have looked like. In fact, we needn't have worried because the result wasn't even that close. In the closest state - Florida, where counting apparently continues - Obama leads by 47,000 votes. To include that state in Obama's electoral college total, he won by 332 to 206 which is a pretty significant lead by any reckoning. The final result was declared within a matter of hours after the polling stations closed on the west coast. It was not really a close-run thing.

Romney totally failed to gain the trust of the electorate and his concession speech included indicators as to why. The main points of Romney's speech were his emphasis on religion as the basis for American values and on his reliance on the "principles of the nation's founders" as a guide to the running of the country. (The backdrop on the stage where Romney appeared even included a picture of a square-rigged sailing ship, presumably like those which brought the Pilgrim Fathers to the shores of colonial America.) The scary stuff started over a year ago, with people like Michele Bachman promising to institute a Christian Caliphate (my post, 28 Aug 2011) and Rick Santorum spewing out his homophobic hate across the airwaves during the Republican primaries (my post, 5 Jan 2012). Instead of this garbage, yesterday's poll gave us two more US states legislating for gay marriage (Maine, Maryland) and Colorado opting to legalise marijuana. So US voters decided they didn't like the nutty taste of Tea Cakes and rejected the whole gamut of them, including those Republican congressmen who think that women who are raped should not have access to abortion.

But noone knows how the wind will blow on polling day, which is why the sense of universal relief among liberals. It's been over a year to wait, after all, and that has made for some jangly nerves.

In pure financial terms, the result looks to have been wise. On the Australian stock market, the bellweather index called the All Ordinaries jumped sharply as soon as the networks began to declare for Obama. Romney's promised fiscal discipline would likely have caused share markets globally to drop as he cut spending and government jobs. We've seen the same thing happen in Queensland, where the premier, elected in March, has made good on his promise to cut 14,000 government jobs. As a result, the unemployment rate in this state is well above the national average. A busy wag recently defaced Campbell Newman's electoral office by painting its front with the word "Tyrant".

For Obama, of course, it's not all about roses and rainbows. He's still got the reality of a hostile House (the Senate remains majority Democrat) to contend with, so pushing through reforms and budgets will continue to be problematic. Then there's the issue of climate change, which Hurricane Sandy brought home to east coast voters in such a violent way just days before the election was held. I listened to much of Obama's victory speech and it felt good to hear the word "Hope" uttered once again but, for me, the word which most readily comes to mind when contemplating Obama's win is "Confidence". The Tea Party flared bright and briefly but America was unswayed by its baroque promises and chose, instead, to go with a man they trust to both run the economy and to set the tone for progress across the spectrum of portfolios for the next four years.

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