Today is Tuesday, November 21, 2017

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Fred's Views


Presidential Elections 08

It's over. At last. After what has seemed like one of the longest and dirtiest presidential campaigns in history, the votes have been cast and counted. The clear winner is Barack Obama. Although, perhaps, the true winners are the people of the United States as well as the nation itself. For the first time in U.S. history, a man with a clear "black" or African heritage has won the highest office in the land. Obama has been almost universally referred to as "African-American" - a phrase which, if taken literally, is absolutely dead on accurate. However, if taken in its usual meaning, a politically correct euphemism for "black" or the "n" word, is only partially accurate. Obama is of mixed "race" - his mother was Caucasian and his father, an African from Kenya. According to one article, Obama has at least seven different nationalities in his background and is distantly related to three presidents (including the current President Bush) and Dick Cheney. (Although the article states that such distant relationship is not unusual for anyone with ties to New England.)

The point, however, is that not only did a man with clear "African-American" ties become president, but a man of "mixed race". Hitler and the Klu Klux Klan must be turning over in their graves!

But enough of something that is fundamentally unimportant. Obama is who he is not because of the color of his skin, but from the far more important character genes that he inherited and the environment from which he matured. He is proof that, even now, a man from limited means can, with a little luck and a lot of work, rise up from poverty and aspire to and obtain the highest office in the U.S. Many of us may have believed that that was a feat no longer possible. Perhaps that alone will inspire a new generation to get and stay involved with politics and, much more importantly, with the process of governing.

But back to the election. While most of the polls gave Obama a clear victory - and, indeed, he clearly won the electoral college votes, what surprises me is how close the popular vote turned out to be. I have not seen or heard any comment on what the closeness in the popular vote means. Did, perhaps, McCain win landslide victories in the states which he did carry? It certainly would seem to be necessary to account for his popular vote. Does this reflect a true commitment to the Republican cause? or a soul-felt fear of the Democrat's platform. Or, more sinisterly, is it a "white" backlash against a man of mixed-race? I hope not. I, along with many Americans, want to believe that we have moved past such stupidity.

This election, of course, was preordained to be historic (Okay, all presidential elections are historic, but this one more so). From the earliest days of the campaign, it became fairly obvious that history was going to be made. At the very least there would be either an "African-American" or a woman running for president. Obama may not have been the first "African-American" to run for the presidency, but he was the first to win the nomination from a mainstream party. Later on, with McCain's selection of Sarah Polin as running mate, history was again to be made: either we would have the first "African-American" president, or the first female Vice-President (who, incidentally, would have had a much better than average chance at becoming president as a result of McCain's "advanced" age and questionable health).

Many have questioned McCain's selection of Sarah Polin. Certainly I had never heard her name before (of course I had never heard of Joe Biden before despite the many years of service under his belt). Sarah certainly made the campaign more interesting with her expensive wardrobe and her (all too representative) offspring. History will ultimately decide whether Sarah helped or hindered the Republican cause. Hopefully, the campaigns of both Hillary and Sarah will inspire other women to enter the fray, just as, we hope, the election of Barack Obama will inspire people of "visible minorities" to vie for the vote as well.

I found it interesting - and disturbing - that the election of Obama did nothing to slow down the maddness now infesting stockmarkets world wide. Certainly the media has crowned Obama as a "savior" offering new hope for the young, the disenfranchised and the down trodden. If that doesn't include the maligned middle class, then Obama offers (according to the media) hope for them as well. That's a mighty tall order to fill.

And what of his policies? Can anyone seriously oppose increasing taxes for those earning over $250,000? (I assume, in the case of small business owners, that we are talking about net income and not gross.) Certainly the wealthy have benefitted from an overly complex and incomprehensible tax system (Canada and the U.S.) for far too long. Unfortunately, the number of wealthy people compared to the population as a whole is probably far too small to make much of an impact. But every little bit helps.

And what of Iraq and Afghanistan? If history and Charlie Wilson's War have taught us anything, it is the stupidity of "abandoning" our one-time allies. If the U.S. and its allies were simply to walk away, the results would almost certainly be catastrophic. But maintaining the status-quo will prove to be catastrophic for the U.S. economy (or what's left of it). Barack has pledged to try and open discussions in Afghanistan and Iraq and I hope he can. Unfortunately, the Afghanistans in particular have long memories. They do not seem to be inclined to forgive and forget - and surely that is what will be required to bring peace to the region.

We cannot change the past, we can only (hopefully) learn from it. That is the message Obama will have to sell to Iraq and Afghanistan. It will be a hard sell.

What will it take to get America moving again? How much influence does the government truly have on the economy? I've always maintained that governments have limited influence, at best. Perhaps Obama can "inspire" confidence which will lead to a turnaround. (Interestingly, thanks to the drop in gas prices, Americans are apparently returning to buying large SUV's. While GM is tottering on the brink of collapse, its plant that produces Cadillac SUV's is working overtime to meet the demand. Can anyone say It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World? Anyone?)


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