6 Nov 2012

An American day like no other

The polls are open in America. Actually two tiny villages in New Hampshire completed their voting at midnight. Dixville Notch fielded all 10 of the hamlet’s voters and produced a five-all tie for Obama and Romney – the first tie since this “first vote” gig started in 1948.

But down the road in the same state, in the village of Harts Location, the vote was more decisive: Obama 23, Romney nine. I’m not sure that we can yet claim that where Hart’s Location leads, the nation follows.

But make no mistake, this is a defining moment in American history. If Obama fails, it is the end of a most prominent American dream, a dream in which the right to health was seen as a kind of human right; a dream in which a black American could aspire to the highest position in the land and win re-election on his record rather than his race.

If Romney wins, he becomes the world’s most prominent Mormon of all time, the first bishop (or even ordained individual) of any faith ever to sit in the White House.

In an age in which some of the antics of private equity, Wall Street activity, and high finance, are in question, an American from that background becomes president.

If Romney wins, he will win for a party racked by deep-seated and poisonous division. The Tea Party will feel emboldened. They are deeply isolationist, vastly anti big government, and hate many of their own party as much as they hate Obama.

Thereby hangs the tale of the “fiscal cliff”, which has markets wobbling – I reported it last night on Channel 4 News . Congress, which continues in lame duck form until the new one takes its seats in the new year, has been gridlocked for well over a year, refusing to approve a US federal budget.

What they DID agree was a law that would force massive tax rises and spending cuts on 1 January 2013 if no budget agreement had been reached. This would almost certainly plunge the US and world economy back into full recession.

And many in the Tea Party are mad enough and politically naïve enough to want to bring about such a scenario.

So I return to the view that today is a day like no other in US history. The choices are stark and imperfect. The romance of 2008 has drained. The fiscal crisis pre-dates Obama, and even the Tea Party. The consequences have haunted both Obama and Romney throughout the campaign.

There are ways in which the result of today’s voting could come to haunt us all. At least we got through Halloween.

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