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Mainstream, VOL LI, No 1, December 22, 2012 [Annual 2012]

US Presidential Election 2012

Thursday 3 January 2013


by N.V.K. Murthy

A TV commentator speaking about the 2012 US Presidential Election said it was an election where hope was pitted against memory. A couple of months prior to the election, many predicted that Obama had an uphill task and with an unemployment rate higher than nine per cent, it was almost impossible for him to get elected for his second term. Much was made by the Republican Party members about the unpopu-larity of the health care reforms which they had christened as “Obamacare”.,

The Republican party programme was built around two important points. One was the high unemployment rate. They argued that the taxation policy and the regulations constraining the finance market were such that they inhibited small businessmen from investing more in their business and creating jobs. The second point was that the cost of the reformed healthcare system would be such that it would bankrupt the country in future years.

Added to these economic aspects of the election propaganda, were the social issues such as women’s rights and same sex marriage. The immigration problem was another point on which the Republicans painted a dark future for the majority White Americans, predicting that Asians and Latinos would take over the country. A careful analysis of all these points led one to believe that the Republican Party was constantly harking to a happy past when businessmen and Wall Street ruled the government, and the white Anglo-Saxon, protestant American, held supremacy in US society. As against this, Obama and the Democratic Party symbolised a future scenario in which there would be social and economic justice for the entire population and a universal healthcare system. They took a pragmatic view of world and national affairs. While both Parties were still talking of the exceptional nature of the United States, the Democratic Party was constantly pointing out that the US could no longer afford to play the role of the world cop and had to act along with other leading nations of the world.

When it came to immigration the Democrats realised that the millions of illegal immigrants could not be pushed out of the country by flipping a switch. Moreover, there were thousands and thousands of men and women—especially of the Latino community—who were born here, on US soil, though their parents may have come as illegal immigrants. So, they proposed what came to be known as “Dream Immigration Bill”. A couple of years ago this comprehensive immigration bill seemed to have a consensus but ultimately the Republican party distanced itself from it.

On taxation and financial regulation matters, the two parties were fundamentally opposed to one another. The Republican Party wanted to go back to the halcyon days of low taxation and few regulations. The Democratic Party was advocating a fair taxation and strict regulations of financial institutions to prevent another 2008-type catastrophe. Again on social matters like women’s rights and gay marriage, the Republican Party was harking to the past and the democratic party looked to a more revolutionary future.

Thus, the past and the future seem to be clashing all the time. One party was obsessed with the memory of a happy past while the other was dreaming about an uncertain yet hopeful future. Finally, much to the astonishment of some veteran journalists, hope triumphed over memory and Obama won convincingly, winning both electoral college and the national majority.

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