“We have overcome”. That’s what was painted on at least one sign being waved energetically on the floor of McCormick Place convention centre in Chicago where thousands of supporters gathered to await the only news they wanted to hear. At exactly 11:18 p.m. (Eastern Standard Time) on Tuesday word came that indeed and in fact Barack Obama, America’s first Black President, was re-elected to a second historic term.
The people of America have done it again, some 56 million of them. They have reaffirmed the history-making vote of 2008 for Obama, and returned him with a comfortable lead in both the Electoral College and the popular vote.
In a 17-month long, multi-billion-dollar campaign, described as one of the toughest and most expensive in the country’s history, Obama and his Republican rival, Mitt Romney, presented a struggling America with two distinct visions for the country.
But what most voters wanted were assurances that the economy, which has been facing its worst period since the Depression years of the 1930s, would recover, and quickly. American news sources reporting on early exit polls said that while 39 per cent of people who were asked about the critical issue of the economy said it was improving, another 31per cent said it was worse and 28 saw it as unchanged.
While Romney’s strategy was to lay the blame for the slow recovery at the feet of the Obama administration and to promise that as a successful businessman he had the answer for economic growth, Obama reminded the American public of the economic successes his administration has been able to achieve and to speak of a reality that will require more time before economic growth picks up. The point was also driven home that his administration was still trying to clean up after the damage and staggering debt left over from the eight-year administration of George W. Bush which left him with two wars and a huge housing and banking crisis.
As anticipated, Obama gave an inspiring victory speech in Chicago in the early hours of Wednesday morning which was very much a pep talk and rallying cry. As he had done in his first victory speech four years ago, he again told the American public that he alone could not rescue America; he reminded the massive crowd that they were “all in this together.”
While he delivered such a rousing yet sobering message to his supporters and campaign workers Wednesday morning in Chicago, it would not have been far from his mind that both the Senate and the House of Representatives have retained the status quo – meaning a Democratic-led Senate and Republican-majority House of Representatives – foretelling a continuation of the kind of partisan intransigence that marked his first term, and which has to bear blame for government’s budget woes and for an increasingly polarized atmosphere within the nation.
One of his first challenges will be the reforming America’s income tax structure, including his promise to increase the taxation rate for the wealthiest Americans, issues which will undoubtedly face serious push back from House Republicans.
This is the President’s last election because, constitutionally, he can’t serve more than two terms. As such, he no longer has to worry about his political future, so we watch and wait to see what policies he can move forward, including those that will affect our economy here. We know, for instance, that pre-election he was holding off on approval of the Keystone XL pipeline to carry oil from the Alberta tar sands to the U.S., but with America looking more to Canada for fuel supplies in order to be less dependent on Middle East sources, that project might be approved, as soon as he can square environmental concerns.
Finally, it remains to be seen what, if anything, Obama will do for his voting base of African-Americans who put their faith in him with the hope that he will address their issues.
America has been called a divided nation, but Americans can be justifiable proud in electing and re-electing this President.