7 Nov 2012

A grim grind delivers Obama

He’s back for another four years. Barack Obama wins a second term by a tighter margin than for his first, but against a more difficult economic backdrop than any second term-winning president before him.

Mr Obama’s Democratic party has won a vital, slightly increased, majority in the Senate. There are more woman Senators than ever before. The first openly gay and lesbian Senator has been elected. The House of Representatives remains firmly in Republican hands. The right wing Tea Party’s hold on the Republican party remains. The ingredients for gridlock remain. Two states vote to legalise gay marriage; two states vote to legalise marijuana.

Those are the headlines. But there is a story here in Washington. Last night, for the second time round, I watched Obama win in the company of a thousand exuberant African American students at Howard university. Sure, they danced, they screamed, they leapt for joy. But there were no tears, none of the romance, none of the magic that greeted the first victory of the first black man ever elected to the presidency. This time it was cash, grind, and grit that delivered victory against a tough economic background and a strong sense of broken promises of hope.

A few blocks away, just after midnight I made it to the grand headquarters of the Republican party. The band was playing to an empty ballroom. Two characters slumped on chairs, apparently semi-conscious. Within minutes even the band stopped.

It felt as if the lifeblood had seeped from this body politic. In truth, despite winning the lower House of Congress, this was a bad night for the Republicans. Women voted overwhelmingly for Obama; people earning under $100,000 a year likewise. Abortion as an issue cost the party seats. It is now a white southern party and looks increasingly unlikely to win an outright national majority. Last night I met young Republicans desperate to get God out of the party; to stop talking about abortion, and to start embracing other races. This is a moment of potential change.

Most immediately, will the bruised majority in the Lower House of Congress continue to block the US budget in the more than year long gridlock on Capitol Hill? Or will they finally accept that what electors have actually done is to summon politicians to rally to unity?

This was not 2008. It was a grim grind of a night, just as it has been a grim grind of an election, drenched with some of the most expensive and hateful TV advertising ever. One great hope resides in the reality that up to four of the nine supreme court justices could come up for replacement. The law that permitted this filthy contest on television could be overturned.

Finally, as many wonder whether Obama can summon the imagination and the reaching out to become a better president than he has been thus far, spare a thought for Mitt Romney. He fought a brave campaign for a deeply divided Party. His campaign was hard, his concession dignified.

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9 reader comments

  1. Philip says:

    “a brave campaign for a deeply divide party”!!! He twisted this way and that, said what his hearers wanted to hear because his sole aim was power. I doubt whether anyone had the faintest idea what Romney would actually DO as President – probably be a pushmepullyou for the various factions within his party. He stood among, rather than above. I see no bravery there at all.

  2. Philip Edwards says:


    All I know is there will be momentary release from loony, “Gard bless America.”

    Oh I would have laughed if there had been a sudden appearance of an all-red fire breathing apparition with horns and a long tail and carrying a trident.

    Richard Dawkins would have been a brilliant addition too.

    So, a sigh of relief the two-ring circus is over for the time being. Not that it will make much difference to the lies, ripoff and hypocrisy – those staples of US “democracy.”

  3. margaret brandreth-jones says:

    Two blogs in one day, enjoy your flight home or is that the reason we have two blogs: boredom. Most folks I have spoken to today inform me that Obama has won and they are glad..well so am I , but am not sure exactly why. I really can’t understand how they can comprehend US politics without actually living there. One chap I was chatting to this morning at the swimming baths commented that the costal damage caused by ‘Sandy’ was as vast as the area of the UK ,yet the voters still turned out.The presidency seems to have far more importance to the North Americans than our party politics. Well, we all wait for Obama to produce that which is the best to come.

    1. margaret brandreth-jones says:

      The hysteria as typified by the young girl crying on C4 scares me a little.Any sweeping of emotion is dangerous , however I expect things will settle.

      Money Rules: Romney is still rich and has his finger in many pies .The power therefore is still in balance as Obama the figurehead takes diplomatic charge. The division calls for much manoeuvering. I suppose what Obama needs to do is a Blair without an Iraq, i.e. play the other side with money and talk social inclusion for popularity.

  4. Paul Jackson says:

    Where can I congratulate you on a fantastic “Look at the Past! programme this evening. Keep up your camapaign

  5. Jim McLean says:

    I know this is the wrong section of your blog. But I just wanted to thank Jon Snow for his newsreading and his great common sense. For example, his position on wearing the poppy. Of course it is ludicrous that people are wearing poppies earlier and earlier now because of image and reputation and not because they care any more than anyone else. Jon’s comment that he will wear it, on Sunday, in private with his family and community….is perfectly in line with how we should all be wearing it.
    Thanks for your service to news reading.

  6. anon says:

    Amazing how the recent scandals in the military have just surfaced after the election. “Apparently” Obama was not aware. If not why not? There seems to be plenty of evidence.
    Perhaps he was too busy playing golf. ?
    Where there are people there will be sex. especially when paths cross at the corporate and higher levels.
    How many men are there who cannot resist a liason when a marriage has lasted for many years. Very often the romance has gone and family situation is all that ties. Confront an aging man with a nubile and talented and available woman and many will surcombe even if only temporarily.

  7. anon says:

    Apologies succumb.

    They seem to have been acting like irresponsible teenagers. Incidentally divorce is an option but it is not an easy solution and quite often family pressures overule.

    It is sad though as the man so often loses all that he has worked for.
    Perhaps one partner for life is not a realistic situation for many.

    1. margaret brandreth-jones says:

      In an honest relationship these things should be discussed as a possibility, then the press etc have no hold over a career as both parties are aware and cannot be blackmailed.

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