Barack Obama’s victory sent millions into jubilation but what does it mean?
He did it. In spite of all the attacks thrown his way and the failing American economy, Barack Obama defeated Mitt Romney and the Republican Party to claim another four years as the figurehead of the most powerful nation on Earth. Celebratory scenes have been recorded across the globe and social networks are abuzz with proud and joyous statements. However, the significance of his victory is different to that of 2008 and the last four years have thrown up some very important truths about the reality of the first black president of the United States. Just as there’s two sides to every coin, there’s two sides to this result.
From a cultural perspective, Barack Obama is an important symbol of black excellence. For too long, black people have been almost entirely associated with entertainment, crime and broken families. Obama’s close family and continued presence in the white house is proof that we’re much more. The series of debates between Mitt Romney and the President was an example of such.
After a limp display in the first debate the president bounced back with a wonderful balance of knowledge,articulation and strength to send Mitt Romney and the Republican party licking their wounds. With the global exposure that comes with the presidency – Barack Obama’s achievements are projected around the world and have the power to challenge stereotypes as well as the way black people think about themselves.
From a broader standpoint – the alternative to Barack Obama was horrific. Mitt Romney was simply unelectable and the fact that he secured such a huge public following is evidence of the problems and division within the US. He’s essentially a multi-millionaire tax evading businessman who believes that 47% of Americans aren’t worth worrying about despite the fact that 46.2 million citizens (15%) are living in poverty.
In fact his website claims the first thing he would have done if elected would be to remove Obama-Care, the presidents revolutionary national health care scheme which will in theory ensure all Americans have health insurance by 2020. It could be argued that Mr Romney represents the personification of exactly what’s wrong with the US. As Barack Obama said the duty of the President is to “represent all” and it was clear Mitt Romney didn’t fit the bill.
Barack Obama’s victory is in many ways good for America. They have a credible head of state, who inspires poor and downtrodden people across the globe and seems to have very noble intentions.
Noble intentions are one thing but results are a completely different story and it’s fair to say Barack Obama’s first term wasn’t what many had hoped for. The popular slogan of his 2008 campaign was “change you can believe in” but looking back four years later,real change has been hard to come by.
Many of those who supported him during his first election have voiced their intense disappointment. Examples include influential PBS TV host Tavis Smiley have condemned him for failing to help the poor and Cornel West who recently called him a “Rockefeller Republican in blackface”. A harsh statement? Perhaps but America’s foreign policy under his presidency doesn’t disprove Mr West at all.
Although he has overseen the completely removal of all US troops from Iraq and a gradual reduction of forces in Afghanistan , under Obama’s presidency there has been a six-fold increase in drone attacks. Almost 300 strikes have been carried out in Pakistan since he took office resulting in hundreds of civilian deaths according to BBC reports directly violating international laws.
Earlier this year, it was revealed by the New York times that all males of military age are characterised as combatants within drone strike zones and so it is unknown how many actual civilians have died as a result.Then there was the war on Libya last year which saw the illegitimate overthrow of revolutionary leader Mumaar Gaddafi and the murder of thousands. Before the United States and NATO intervened the death toll was between 1 and 2,000.
By the time they had left, casualties had reached at least 30,000 with 50,000 wounded.
He also signed the National defense act gave the US Government legal power to indefinitely detain and interrogate American civilians believed to be “terrorism suspects” without trial last year. Following protests and a legal battle, a temporary injunction was granted this year which prevents the law from coming into force. However the Obama administration are still fighting for it to be enforced.
Although the US military is perhaps less intrusive in terms of ground forces than during the reign of George Bush, unsanctioned and unlawful murders have continued under Barack Obama’s leadership.
Further he has been accused of focusing almost solely on the middle class especially during his campaign ignoring the 15% of Americans living in poverty in the process. 46.2 million American’s (15% of the population) live in poverty according to 2012 figures.
According to Rogers Smith,a University of Pennsylvania political science professor the poor are ignored because they don’t hold much political power;
“The poor don’t vote in high numbers, most Americans see themselves as middle class and that’s where the votes are.”
This raises the question of whether the presidency is about actually helping people or merely a perpetual popularity contest.
The Bottom Line
Few know exactly what goes on behind the clothes doors of the white house but it’s clear to see that President Obama isn’t able to bring about the changes many of his supporters have hoped for many reasons. However truth be told, our expectations are also an issue.
The Political structure of the United States and many western nations doesn’t allow for real change. So rather than looking to a system which has consistently failed for decades regardless of it’s leader, perhaps it’s time for us to look to ourselves. What can we do to create real change in our lives and in our communities?
Maybe it’s time we as “everyday” people took responsibility for creating the societies we wish to see.