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Comment: Four More Years

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26 November 2012


Since my last article, the results of the US Presidential Election have come in, returning Barack Obama to the White House. His victory was, in the end, much more comfortable than many expected and avoided a long and protracted wrangle over close margins in the swing states that so often determine the contests.

The reaction from the rest of the world, broadly speaking, seemed to be one of relief at continuity rather than euphoria at change. There can be no doubt that Obama’s original election victory was laced with much more potency and significance, not to mention genuine optimism around those words ‘hope’ and ‘change’. Nevertheless, while Obama’s domestic popularity has, quite expectedly, been dampened by the hard realities of office as opposed to his upstart candidacy, he still enjoys enviable favourability in Europe and much of the wider world.

The major posts in the new administration will be announced after the Americans have finished their Thanksgiving turkeys, with previous presidential candidate John Kerry hotly tipped to take over as Secretary of State from the outgoing Hillary Clinton. Having known John Kerry personally for many years, it will be interesting to see who ends up taking this one of the most significant roles in the government.

The UK Government would of course have worked with whoever had won the election, but the re-election of Obama brings up some interesting similarities and contrasts for our side of the pond. Most significant perhaps is that the American electorate chose to stick with the incumbent despite the tough economic cloud that has hovered over his first term. Obama was elected just as the financial storm broke over the country in 2008 and his work has been dominated by the economy. Recoveries across the western world have been more sluggish and jerky than anyone would wish, but the voters recognised the horrendous inheritance that the President was presented with when he arrived in the Oval Office for the first time and gave him the benefit of the doubt in allowing him to continue.

This sheer volume of money that is spent in US elections is of course one of the main
differences, dwarfing as it does what gets put into elections in this country. This huge expenditure, however, can breed a level of negative campaigning and partisanship on all sides that isn’t conducive to co-operation once the hostilities are over. I think we can be broadly pleased that we don’t see the kind of viciousness between the major parties in this country, to the extent indeed that we have been able to see two parties come together to govern in the national interest.

In any case, now that the dust has settled on another contest in America, the work of
governing in prose, rather than campaigning in poetry, starts again in earnest, and it will be interesting to see what it brings for America and the rest of the world.

 

Article originally published in the Rutland Times (22.11.12)

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