Posted by: Martin Scherer | 14/08/2011

America will pay a price if Obama is voted out, unless…..


Amongst the e-mails I get are numerous about President Obama. I don’t respond, whether I agree or not. For some months a year I am a guest on US side of the pond. It is discourteous to criticise the house of your host. I do not comment on internal American politics.

Consequently I have both Democrat and Republican friends. Some Republicans think I’m Democrat and some Democrats think I’m Republican. Most know I’m neither. I’m British. Consequently American friends speak freely. Some are vitriolic in their opposition to Obama, some accuse both sides of racism. I won’t tell you what they say, but I will make a prediction for you.

If Obama is not re-elected, America will pay a price.

That is an awful prediction. The more you think about it, the more awful it is.

Americans point out that the USA was the first western country to elect a black President, that there are other black US politicians who fundamentally disagree with Obama, and people argue that the USA today is a post-racial society. I may agree.

My experience of American workers is that they seem colour blind when black and white gang together against Mexicans, in much the same way that black and white ganged together to burn and loot London’s shops and because Polish immigrants have taken their jobs. Obama not only claims to have black roots but also Irish and English roots. America is a great big melting pot and McBama is more representative of that than others.

Its true, it’s not about race, it’s about policies. Ask any politician why they lost an election and they will tell you – the economy stupid. The US economy is not recovering and may fall into double dip. Whether Obama was left a horrendous legacy or the inevitable consequence of attack on American soil, whether he got it wrong or not, whether he got it right but it will take a few years to work, it happened on his watch and its coming to re-election year.

It’s the economy stupid.

That was why British Prime Minister Brown bailed out the banks., pushed the world into ‘quantitative easing’, and spent billions soaking up unemployment in pointless state jobs to buy their votes. He nearly succeeded but the economy turned sour on his watch, and he left a bigger hole in his desperate attempt to stay elected. Brown was not a President Johnson.

The economy. That is why the British Conservatives and Liberals signed a five year pact and instituted austerity measures from day one of getting power. They desperately hope, that by the time re-election comes, the economy will have recovered. That is why they will not budge an inch, not even to remove police cuts when London burns. If Europe and the US are still in a mess, if the economy is just as bad at re-election, they will risk getting booted. These are high risk times for politicians.

People can argue as rationally as they want but it does not matter. Obama is still the first black US President. It’s a dangerous game, in dangerous times. If Obama is kicked out after one term, there will be those believe he wasn’t given a fair chance. America’s poor and blacks will loose faith in democracy as they have before. America will fracture down racial lines.

The glue that holds deocracy together

The first principle of democracy is you have the right to vote. So you feel you can participate in the decisions that affect your life. That principle holds a democracy together. You may not get the person you judge best. If they succeed, you were wrong. If they fail, you can boot them out in a few years. You are not stuck for life with a repressive dictator.

The second principle of democracy is that you vote for someone like you. Someone with the same interests and values as you, so their decisions will be in your interests. Does that mean they also need to be the same age, sex, sexuality, social class, ethnic origin and race? One hopes not but in reality – yes. Yes, because people of the same age, sex, social class and race are likely to have had the same life experiences and thereby hold similar interests and values. Those elected in a true democracy will reflect the diverse range of ages, sexes and races amongst the voters. But there is only one President.

OK, you may not get your choice, but at least you have hope that once in your lifetime you may get the chance. That is the promise of democracy that enables the losers to accept defeat. Catholics have had their President, the young have had theirs, but American blacks have waited over a century for that chance. American women are still waiting. You may be Latino and want a President of Latino origin, and that is a prospect on the horizon as TV has predicted. You may be of Scandanavian or German origin, or you may be gay, and want a similar President. Not very likely but you may if their polices and promises attract a wide cross-section of voters.

Some Americans are playing a dangerous game at a dangerous time. The race card has been played both for and against Obama. Those who call for Obama’s birth certificate, who label him a Muslim, a racist, a communist, when it is patently obvious he is none of those things, are merely confirming emotional feelings it was not the economy, it was Obama did not stand a chance because of his race.

If Obama was wrong and austerity is right, then in the long hot austere summers following Obama’s defeat, someone will shoot somebody and American cities will burn.

That was the failing of the British Government this summer. They may be right, maybe austerity is the only way, but the cuts loom, rich whites are in power, the poor felt disenfranchised, they took to the streets, London burned and it spread like wildfire across British cities. Looting and burning were wrong, and they destroyed their own communities. The Labour party opposition failed to lead the poor in peaceful protest. When a democracy factures, it’s an awful reality but there is no alternative to clampdown. Send in Robocop. The British government and police chiefs knew it was coming but they failed to prepare and so London burned.

You may be an ambassador to England or France
You may like to gamble, you might like to dance
You may be the heavyweight champion of the world
You may be a socialite with a long string of pearls

   But you’re gonna have to serve somebody. 

You may be a state trooper, maybe a young Turk
You may be the head of some big TV network
You may be rich or poor, you may be blind or lame
You may be sleeping on the floor or in a king sized bed
You may be living in this country under another name

…..but you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed 

You may be a construction worker with no home to build
You may be living in a mansion or loosing in foreclosure
You might be somebody’s landlord, you might even own banks,
You might own guns and you might even own tanks

You may be a preacher with your spiritual pride
You may be a city councilman taking bribes on the side
You may be workin’ in a barbershop, you may know how to cut hair
You may be somebody’s mistress, may be somebody’s heir

You might be a rock ’n’ roll addict prancing on the stage
You may be a businessman or some high-degree thief
They may call you Doctor or they may call you Chief

    But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, 

You may think him the devil, you may think him a lord
You may think him a Christian, you may think him Muslim
You may think him communist, you may think him coconut
You may call him anything but no matter what you say

    You are still gonna have to serve somebody

Such a genius, Bob Dylan. I hope he forgives me for paraphrasing his words.

Should I keep my mouth shut for fear of speaking the unspeakable, offending my American friends? The USA is not my country. If we were discussing France or Italy, or just about any other country apart from maybe Japan or China, I would not be concerned. But America is leader of the free world and has the largest economy. If the US gets stomach ache, the rest of the world will get diarrhoea.

Yes things are changing. The US economy is no longer the only driving economy of the world. China is rising, Europe is a more important economy to the UK than the US, but right now, China is not buying, it is selling. Europe is not a united economy and a dis-united USA can only add to our woes. Americans who push their economy to the brink of collapse, and threaten the world economy, will get no sympathy if it seems they did it simply because they don’t like or trust their elected President.

I am right to be concerned, for both myself and my American friends, unless…..

Unless Obama’s victorious opponent is black, latino or a woman. Again that is the wrong reason to choose a candidate, but maybe these are unusual times that prove the rule.

I pray to be proved wrong. If the US economy does not recover before Obama faces re-election, will the unspoken anxiety of the first failed black President cause Democrats to come out en masse and floating Republicans to stay away from the polls, so Obama scraps through? If Republicans want to win, maybe they should show they can choose someone other than an elderly white man.

I feel very sorry for middle-aged, middle class, white men. They are so out of favour these days and to know how that feels, you need to be a white, middle aged, middle class, man. That’s democracy. Often unjust, often unfair, but it’s the best we know. Maybe its time for us to feel what it was like to be a woman, a black or an immigrant. Maybe its time for us to be the captain and the last to leave the sinking ship we didn’t intend but we did help to build.




  1. Nicely said, thank you!

  2. Nicely put, thanks from this side of the pond!

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