» News » Time for the elephant to do some soul searching

Time for the elephant to do some soul searching

By Aziz Haniffa
November 12, 2012 22:10 IST
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Barack Obama's re-election reflects how much the Republican Party, held hostage by the Tea Party, has alienated minorities and women. Aziz Haniffa reports

Republican challenger Mitt Romney may very well have been the Last Great White Hope in an America with its changing demographics and galloping diversity, where alienating minorities is today a recipe for disaster.

The bruising and lengthy GOP primaries, where a weak roster of candidates fell over themselves to pander to the anti-immigrant, anti-abortion, and race-baiting Tea Party, which forced even a relatively moderate northeasterner like Romney to move to the extreme right to secure the nomination, incensed the Latinos, women and other minorities like Asian Americans and Muslim Americans, who voted en masse for Barack Obama and helped him to be the first President to be re-elected in over six decades with an unemployment rate of 7.2 per cent.

Over 70 per cent of Latinos voted for Obama and only about 27 per cent preferred Romney. The women vote was also as impressive for Obama.

Asian Americans and Muslim Americans, who had been racially profiled and subjected to hate crimes thanks to the rhetoric of rabid conservatives, coalesced to put Obama over the top. Even though not a significant voting bloc, they religiously subscribed to the maxim that every vote counts.

Latinos may have been disappointed that Obama may not have delivered on immigration reform as promised, but Romney's threat to veto the DREAM Act and urge self-deportation of undocumented immigrants terrified this community.

This community, which in 2008 supported Obama over John McCain 67-31 per cent, came out in even larger numbers, 69 to 30 per cent, this year according to a CBS poll.

Women were equally chagrined by Romney's anti-abortion remarks and the misogynistic outbursts of fellow Republicans, which he never categorically condemned, as were the LGBT community by his opposition to same-sex marriage. Although he tried to appear more moderate, his moving to the center seemingly was dubious.

According to the CBS poll, Obama received almost three-quarters of the votes of those who favor same-sex marriage, and Romney won the same fraction of those opposed.

Contrary to predictions that the African-American community may be apathetic, the high turn-out of this community, many of who stood for hours to vote and fought back voter suppression efforts in some precincts, turned the tide in states like Pennsylvania, which apparently was even higher than their support for Obama in 2008.

It was the nasty allegations and innuendo by the likes of Donald Trump -- the 'bloviating ignoramus' as conservative columnist and commentator George Will described him -- questioning Obama's birth in the US and resurrecting the birther movement paranoia and the incessant bigoted attacks by talk-radio ideologues like Rush Limbaugh and Fox News's Sean Hannity, that ignited the enthusiasm of not just the African-American community, but other minorities and even progressive whites and students who had been in the forefront of Obama's victory in 2008.

The veritable coalition of haters of Obama, including the evangelist movement, led by the high priests like Franklin Graham -- son of the much revered Bill Graham, which after earlier calling Romney's Mormon faith a cult, removed it from their website -- in an all out effort of endorsing Romney, and spewing their wrath against Obama, apparently turned off the black churches and pastor.

The latter, even though troubled by the President's support of same-sex marriages and their conservatism on social issues, were filled with angst over the demonization of the first African-American president.

Then of course, there's no denying the Bill Clinton factor who did over two dozen campaign events for Obama -- the very same Clinton who in 2008, when Obama was engaged in a bruising primary with his wife Hillary Clinton, had called Obama's campaign the biggest 'fairy tale' he had ever seen -- being catalytic in giving that extra oomph to the President's campaign when it seemed to be flailing.

No small wonder, that Obama, immediately after he received the concession call from Romney and before he delivered his victory speech, called Clinton to thank him for the efforts that had helped reinforce the massive mobilization efforts and amazing ground game in getting out the vote that the campaign had sustained with an infrastructure reminiscent of the 2008 campaign.

It's also unknown if in the wake of Storm Sandy and his embrace and the kudos showered by New Jersey Republican Governor Chris Christie -- not to mention the bear hug that Christie gave the President -- could have shored up his leadership credentials, at a time when it was being regularly questioned.

But the optics couldn't have but helped, especially coming from the same Christie, who was the keynote speaker at the Republican Convention, and the attack dog who had slammed Obama's leadership abilities.

If nothing else, it seemingly stalled Romney's momentum after the first debate where he had roundly defeated a listless and lack-luster Obama. Thus, it was a convincing victory for Obama, hardly the squeaker that the majority of pundits had predicted with harrowing scenarios of not just a long night, but perhaps days of suspense reminiscent of 2000.

When the quintessential bell-weather state of Ohio was in Obama's corner nearly an hour before midnight November 6, the writing was on the wall that Romney's nearly decade-long quest in seeking the Presidency was toast.

In the final analysis, the negative, yet strong Obama campaign ads against Romney during his Bain Capital days, and accusations that he was the 'pioneer of outsourcing,' and his inability to live down his rejection of the auto bailout that Obama championed and helped Detroit and Ohio recover, was not lost on the white blue-collar workers, who helped propel the Ohio victory for the President.

And it was not just Ohio, but several of the other key battleground states, including Romney's running mate Paul Ryan's Wisconsin, as well as Virginia, Iowa, Colorado, Florida, that went Obama's way and garnered an comfortable electoral as well as popular vote win that obviously caught all of the talking heads by total surprise.

With the Republicans retaining the House and the Senate remaining with the Democrats, it's a return to the status quo. If the Republicans far from soul-searching remain dogmatic and continue to filibuster all of Obama's outreach, gridlock would be the order of the day with a financial cliff not far away.

The President, however, is clearly mindful that his re-election could be tarnished at the end of his second term by a legacy that he didn't leave the country better off economically and with a turnaround in jobs than when he was first elected.

He held out yet another olive branch to the detractors in the opposition who were hell-bent on making him a one-term President, instead of basking in his victory and rubbing it in for conservatives like former vice president Dick Cheney, who had predicted that he would be a one-term chief executive.

Even as he declared that the 'best was yet to come,' a phrase that was the signature line of today's Republican hero, the late President Ronald Reagan, Obama acknowledged, 'By itself, the recognition that we have common hopes and dreams won't end all the gridlock, resolve all our problems or substitute for the painstaking work of building consensus and making the difficult comprises needed to move the country forward.'

And that in the coming weeks and months, he would be 'looking forward to reaching out and working with the leaders of both parties to meet the challenges we can only solve together -- reducing our deficit, reforming our tax code, fixing our immigration system, freeing ourselves from foreign oil.'

Whether Obama's contention that 'we are not divided as our politics suggests,' rings true or hollow remains to be seen with an opposition that is soul searching and can go either way.

The Republicans might either double down and become even more conservative à la the Tea Party, or have an epiphanous realization that such a course would forever deny the GOP not just the White House but the very ethos of the party of Lincoln, with all of its compassion and inclusion.


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Aziz Haniffa
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